Dahn Yoga Voice

A letter to CNN #5

Ms. Rodriguez,

As a highly satisfied customer of the services provided by the Dahn Yoga center, I am writing to express my concerns that a news story on Dahn Yoga which implies that the highly-inflammatory characterization of “cult” might even apply to this exercise program does not truly encompass a full picture of what Dahn Yoga is about.

I am a 40-year-old business professional who graduated summa cum laude and possesses a Master’s degree in English. I come from a conservative, grounded family who emphasized critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, touted individualism over joining the band wagon and celebrated, rather than feared, differences. I mention this background only because when I see that Campbell Brown’s segment on Dahn Yoga proposes to have enough evidence to support even the question “cult?” in its promotional materials, I can only assume that insufficient background checks into how Dahn Yoga is actually practiced must be the reason for the potential failings the story must possess.

Let me take a brief moment to tell you what I tell others about my experience with Dahn Yoga. The first thing I explain is that this yoga class is not California babes in tight clothes doing seemingly impossible poses. On the contrary, we are all just regular people of all shapes and sizes, mostly seeking better fitness levels. We wear loose-fitting clothes so that we can move freely to stretch or lie on the mat for relaxation pose. The basis of this yoga practice is to strengthen our core (how many other exercise programs, including WiiFit, do you know that also do that?), give health to our cells through vibrating techniques that include tapping the body and gently shaking the head and body (and haven’t you seen the growing popularity of the vibrating plate exercise equipment in the fitness stores?), and becoming more sensitive to the energy all around us by understanding our mind/body connection (and doesn’t the placebo effect relied upon by our doctors function on just such a mind/body connection?).

In other words, I believe any misunderstanding here may just be the typical stumbling blocks of translating something with roots in ancient, Eastern culture to the modern, Western tradition. Those who fail to withhold judgment upon that which they do not fully understand are doomed to jump to wrong conclusions.

Therefore, let me conclude that in the 8 months since I began Dahn Yoga, I have had nothing but positive experiences and results. I have been allowed to freely express my own Christian beliefs without being contradicted or condemned. I do exercises at my discretion and witness all levels of “effort” in classes. Everyone is encouraged to do his/her best at all times, but not to overdo. My friends and family have noted my much toner body and much healthier attitude toward life. I am feeling closer to the Trinity than I have felt in a long time (and I am a daily Bible and theology reader/student/believer). I feel the staff has my best health interest at heart and that they do their jobs because they have a passion for this yoga and how it can help people. Yes, Dahn Yoga needs to charge for services. This is capitalistic America, where profit is King, correct? (Weight Watchers isn’t a cult too, is it?) But I truly have observed that the people running the yoga centers are there because they love people and believe what the exercises can do for people will truly help them.

Please do not let what has been “lost in translation” from its Korean roots to its American version taint a course of exercise that is so helpful. We bow in appreciation in class, call our teachers “master” instead of professor and add the appendage “do-nim,” or “loved one” to our own names when addressing each other (and when we remember). I believe these are part of the process, just as I called on my writing students to trust me that multiple drafts were a part of the writing process in the days when I was a teacher.

Thank you for your time in this matter. I know you take your business seriously, and so I hope you will seriously take my concerns into account as your story proceeds.

Ramona Billingslea
Houston, Texas

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