Founded by Ilchi Lee in 1980, Dahn Yoga is a Korean system of yoga that focuses on the development of core body strength as a foundation for mental, physical and spiritual health. Practitioners participate in an extensive program, known as Brain Education System Training (BEST), in an effort to achieve peace through brain and body development.
Also called Dahnhak — dahn meaning “vital, primal energy” and hak meaning “study of a particular philosophy” — this system integrates aspects of tai chi, yoga, martial arts and meditation. Classes typically commence with “meridian” stretching exercises that aim at stimulating the body’s flow of ki energy, also known as qi or chi. These are followed by a sequence of poses and incorporated meditations.
Dahn Yoga is grounded in Sun Do, an ancient Taoist mind-body practice, along with the teachings outlined in Chung Bu Kyung, a 9,000-year-old text about Ki energy. In 1985, the first Dahn studio opened in Seoul, Korea; and within five years, 50 locations were teaching the specialty. Dahnhak continued to spread, reaching the United States in 1991, when the first center opened in Philadelphia. The immense popularity of Dahn Yoga in the US led to the launching of a training franchise, geared toward those looking to operate their own Dahn Centers, or Brain-and-Body Centers.
Dahn Yoga Basics, written by Ilchi Lee, is a practitioner’s guide to the fundamental principals and exercises unique to this mind-body practice. Along with explanatory text and illustrations for each of the postures, Lee delineates three distinguishable elements of Dahn Yoga: “the mastery and use of energy,” “enhancing the body-brain connection” and “self-managed holistic healthcare.”
Perhaps the most interesting of these is the body-brain connection. To define this theory, Lee developed a system called the Brain Operating System (BOS). It is comprised of three elements:
- If you choose it, you can create it.
- Good news makes a good brain.
- Pay attention.
Essentially, Lee believes that as long as the brain is determined, focused and positive, then it is able to actualize health, happiness and success.
The physical health benefits of Dahnhak are quite similar to those of other yoga disciplines. Improvements have been exhibited in the following: weight loss, digestion, flexibility, posture, strength, and sleeping patterns.
In addition to the common cerebral benefits of yoga such as improved stress management and concentration, Dahn Yoga is also said to enhance creativity, memory, and emotional control. Focusing on the brain as the primary determinant for an individual’s health and happiness, Dahn Yoga utilizes exercises that teach practitioners how to manage their thoughts and emotions; and it consequently promotes mental stability.
- Wear loose, light clothing — Many Dahn Yoga centers provide uniforms, but clothing should promote relaxed movement!
- Stay positive. According to Yogi Lee, positivity is key in Brain Management!
- Keep your focus; concentration helps.
There are three types of Dahn Yoga instructors:
- Volunteer – Dahn Yoga Foundation Instructors
The Dahn Yoga Foundation offers a one-day program for volunteer-based instructor training. Individuals may also receive personal training from approved Senior Instructors.
- Basic Instructor – Certified Brain Management Consultant
In order to teach inside or outside of the Dahn Yoga Center, individuals must obtain their Brain Management Consultant (BMC) teacher certification. This training program focuses on the principles of Brain Management, ki energy and theory of Dahn Yoga at large.
- Senior Instructor
This is the highest level of instructor training, involving both education and apprenticeship. Individuals aspiring to be Senior Instructors are mentored and then offered the required certification courses, at their mentors’ discretion.