The following contains descriptions of sexual exploitation that may be distressing.
There was a period in 2018 when Ashleigh Freckleton felt split in two.
There was the lucid, rational Ashleigh who was alarmed by what was unfolding around her, who knew the yoga school she'd joined was something far more dangerous, manipulative, and abusive than it claimed. Then there was the Ashleigh who'd been coerced and brainwashed into justifying it all, into unpicking her suspicions, one by one.
Ashleigh, who many will recognise from the current season of The Bachelor Australia, joined the school while living in London. She was 25, alone in a new city, recovering from a relationship breakdown, and searching for a purpose.
A deeply spiritual person, raised in the Catholic faith, she was contemplating studying yoga in India when a well-meaning friend recommended a yoga school with branches across Europe. (The group will remain unnamed in this article.)
"This friend was so charismatic, and he was the first person I'd spoken to about spirituality who wasn't afraid to use the word God, who wasn't afraid to talk about all different types of faith, and synchronicity, and fate and destiny and life path, and all these sorts of things. I was like, 'This is my calling. This is the first person I've ever met, that understands me,'" Ashleigh told Mamamia.
"Eventually, he said, 'Look, rather than going to India, come to Romania and live for a month amongst all the yogis. It's one of the only true schools that teaches real yoga with a real guide.'"
After taking classes online for several months, Ashleigh flew to Romania in August 2018.