Dahn Hak Tested Against Meditation and Yoga
“Brain Wave Vibration Training” (BWV): It sounds like something from a science fiction novel. But BWV is part of the controversial Dahn Hak system, and refers to a practice comprised of flowing, meditative movements of the head, neck, and body. A recent study comparing BWV to mindfulness meditation training and Iyengar yoga found BWV to uniquely improve depression and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after lights have been turned off (sleep latency).
BWV was originally developed as part of Dahn Hak, a Korean energy based system which encompasses BWV and other martial arts related exercises. Developed to rebalance the body’s energy (meridian) systems and optimize health, the Dahn system and business was founded by Ilchi Lee in the 1980s as part of the Health Smile Peace movement that originated in South Korea. While popular in some US regions, Dahn Hak is not without its share of controversy, and is believed by some to be a cult. These claims are fueled by reports of extreme and bizarre methods and unethical business practices by Lee. However, the research on BWV could still prove to be relevant.
Researchers recruited 45 healthy participants into the study and randomly assigned them to one of three treatment arms: mindfulness training, Iyengar yoga, or BWV training. Each condition met twice weekly for 75 minutes over the five week intervention period. Participants were assigned home practice for each group of 10 minutes per day.
Each 75-m BWV class included patting exercises to stimulate energy meridians (15m), stretching and rhythm to open the meridian system (15m), breathing postures to accumulate energy in the “energy core” of the body (15m), BWV training to create a peaceful and powerful brain (45m), jig am (an energy meditation, 5m), “warm down” of stretching and balancing exercises (13m), and group sharing (2m). The entire class was set to music commonly played in Dahn centers.
The mindfulness group experienced various mindfulness exercises, including sitting/ body-scan meditations, and group/pair work. Poetry and intention setting were also included. The Iyengar yoga group learned stretching/breathing exercises and postures performed with yoga mats and props. Each class concluded with final relaxation.
Results indicated that BWV and Iyengar yoga promoted overall mood and vitality, whereas the mindfulness group had greater improvements in absorption, a measure of one’s capacity to engage in one-pointed, immersive focus. BWV alone resulted in improvements in depression and sleep latency. All intervention groups improved on stress and mindfulness, with no changes observed in health, memory, or salivary cortisol across conditions.
While intriguing, these results are highly preliminary. In addition to only 73% of initially enrolled participants completing the study, the BWV condition included numerous components, rendering discernment of the “active ingredient” responsible for unique improvements in depression and sleep latency challenging. For instance, the higher physical activity level, music, and social support rather than the BWV technique may explain the observed improvement in outcomes; all of these have been independently shown to improve depression and sleep latency.
According to developer Ilchi Lee, BWV is “holy scripture” intended to harmonize the relationship between body and brain. However, some scientists dismiss the widely proselytized benefits of BWV as pseudoscientific fiction largely attributable to the placebo effect.
Do you have any experience with Dahn Hak or BWV? If so, what is your opinion of it?