Dahn Hak Tested Against Meditation and Yoga

Dahn Hak Meditation
Photo Credit: Dahn 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?

Comments 14

  1. As someone who has been practicing brain wave vibration for several years, it makes me really happy to see that you are covering it here on yogabasics.com.

    For me, Brain Wave Vibration has been one of the most powerful tools for relieving stress and focusing my mind.

    As someone who loves yoga and the yoga community, it makes me really sad and disappointed to see the prejudicial tone and treatment of Brain Wave Vibration in your article.

    Commenting that BWV sounds like something “from a SCI FI novel” is slanderous and disrespectful to the thousands of practioners who use BWV daily.

    It is hard to imagine such judgment and poor treatment coming from a yoga publication.

    Please, I encourage you to reevaluate the purpose and intention of your article.

    Brain Wave Vibration is a simple and powerful meditation technique that has huge potential for greatly improving the quality of life for anyone who tries it.

    I encourage you to try it first, before you write such misinformed and clearly damaging articles that only hinder the open minded, health promoting efforts of your very organization.

  2. When you choose to use words such as “Controversial” “Extreme and bizarre” “Sci Fi”, etc, etc.

    You are tainting the opportunity for people to try a powerful healing technique.

    As the study you are referencing clearly demonstrates, this is a very helpful form of meditation.

    At the VERY LEAST, let people form their own opinions of the technique before you paint it with your own negative words.

    If you claim to be true Yogi’s, surely you should know these basic etiquette and extend them to your fellow practitioners.

    Otherwise, you are no better than CNN and other slanderous news organizations who completely misunderstand all yoga.

    Please reconsider.

  3. Dear bharper – I would not recommend anyone try BWV or any other Dahn Hak techniques due to the fact the Dahn Hak organization has a history of unethical marketing and harmful business practices. People have died during Dahn Hak training and there have been numerous lawsuits and allegations of misconduct reported in the press.

    Respect is something that is earned, and the Dahn Hak organization has a lot of work ahead if it wishes to earn the respect of the yoga community. But there is one simple thing they could do that would go a long way: stop calling what they are practicing yoga.

    We are always open to criticism and will always correct any errors we make on the website. But we will not tolerate obvious attempts at character assassination, ad hominem arguments or name calling.

    I have thoroughly read and fact checked the above article and I find no misrepresentation of the this study or the history of the Dahn Hak organization.

  4. For the record, I just deleted two comments from bharper that contained attempts at character assassination, ad hominem arguments and name calling. All things that are inappropriate for this comment section and that I had previously warned him about. None of his comments addressed this article or my previous comments to him.

  5. Are you kidding me? This entire article is an attempt at “character assassination”.

    Please call me at 617-308-9269.

  6. The ironic part is that I’ve taken classes at your facility. Fear and jealousy are not becoming characteristics.

  7. bharper – we are reporting facts here, as documented with links to other articles from reputable news sources. You are offering nothing except your reactive judgments against reading something that accurately describes the issues concerning your organization.

    And now you are being creepy by trying to look up personal information about me and Ms. Braun.

    If anything has been reported inaccurately here please provide links to independent information to support your claims. If you continue with your personal attacks and unsubstantiated remarks you will be banned from this website.

  8. Dear Timothy,

    I would very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter with you in private.

    Please email me at benjamen.harper@gmail.com or call me at 617-308-9269.

    I would like to resolve this conversation.

    If you are going to publish this type of material about something of great significance to me and many others, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with you. Since you delete my opinion and write things that I can not control, the least you can do is give me 10 minutes of your time and explain to me why you are so inclined to present the information as you have. At least do me that service.

    Thank you


    1. Ben,

      You do realize you put your private information on a public website for anyone to see, right?

      I just want to say one thing about Dahn Hak. I was diagnosed with severe migraines and was seeing a neurologist for them. As no prescription drug was working, I decided to try meditation (my neurologist agreed it might be worth exploring). Having already been an extremely active athlete, I decided to try Dahn Hak. I don’t know much about their business practices or on how the organization is run, but I do know the practice of Dahn Hak and the remarkable difference it provided for my condition. Perhaps it was the breathing exercises or the different movements we practiced with our body and minds, whatever it was, it worked.

      I have not needed to see a doctor for headaches in over 12 years. Though I no longer practice Dahn Hak, I do still listen to the CDs while I meditate. I practice Hatha yoga and Bikrums yoga. I meditate and still weight train and do HIIT. The combination of these exercises are all beneficial. I think it’s rash to discount a practice because you do not agree with the politics of the organization. It should be about the practice, itself, and not judged on extreme circumstances.

      I have respect for any practice that pushes an individual deeper into their own consciousness while building a stronger, more connected body and mind.

      That is all I would like to add.


      Lauren Day

  9. Truly, the wise proclaim that love is the only path, love is the only God, and love is the only scripture. Only love can bring unity and remove the separation between all living beings. Only love purifies the body and mind. Love is not far away; it is as close your heart.

  10. bharper – We publish articles on interesting news of yoga in the world, and as yoga professionals we feel responsible to “call out” anyone who is being dishonest or unethical in the practice and teaching of yoga. We have criticized yoga teachers, gurus, and other large organizations in the past, including Dahn “yoga”. Those are our intentions for publishing this article, period.

    Your comments were deleted as they were inappropriate, and you were warned ahead of time that inappropriate comments would be removed. I have given you a chance to have a discussion about this and you have only repetitively accused us of having a hidden agenda to defame Dahn Hak.

    You have already taken up a lot of my time and have worn out my patience, and I have no interest in continuing this discussion any further with you. I have had many other conversations with Dahn Hak practitioners in the past, and they all have had a similar blind eye to the unethical and dangerous practices of Dahn Hak, and could only offer ad hominem arguments and relied on similar personal attacks.

  11. I attended a Dahn Hak center for about 18 months and even attended one of their “New Human conventions” years ago. I found the meditation and movement extremely helpful and healthful. I stopped going when I was “reprimanded” for not wearing the “uniform” which had elastic legs and waist that I found cut off my circulation and wanted to wear my own generic yoga pants, which were far more comfortable. That got me looking around and realizing that in spite of the benefits I was receiving from the regular actual yoga practice, the atmosphere was too confining and I had no interest in becoming one of their “New Humans” and moved on. I still have the book and do the movements and meditations on my own. It’s a shame that like other similar type things, that it became a cult-like business.

  12. I would like to add that the reason I left was because of the increased pressure to give them more money to attend more events like the one I went to initially. I was not interested in making what I considered nothing more than an exercise class, 3 days a week, into something that would take over my life. I realized that the attitude changed toward me once they found that they were not going to get additional money from me. I felt a hostile vibe and left to continue the exercise and meditation on my own. Such a shame for something that could be very healthful to turn ugly and so blatantly commercial and predatory.

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