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    This Woman's Viral Story Of How She Unwittingly Joined A Yoga Cult Is An Important Warning

    "People keep asking how I got sucked into a yoga cult led by a white woman in a turban named Katie..."

    Charlotte Medlock was in her early 20s, living in Los Angeles, and going through a quarter-life crisis when she signed up for a yoga class looking for some stress relief. But instead, she says she unwittingly stumbled into a cult.

    Cults can be a bit tricky to define as they take many forms. Still, generally, a cult is a group of people with shared beliefs led by a charismatic individual who manipulates its members and isolates them from their families, friends, and often society at large. 

    A cult might look like a self-improvement MLM like NXIVM, a religious group like Jim Jones' Peoples Temple, or even a yoga class. But if you don't know the warning signs of a cult, you might not notice you're in one until it's too late. 

    Now 33, Charlotte is speaking out about her experience and sharing the red flags she wishes she'd been aware of back then. In a TikTok that's been viewed over 3.5 million times, she starts her story by saying, "People keep asking how I got sucked into a yoga cult led by a white woman in a turban named Katie. I know it sounds crazy, but I swear it could happen to anyone who's vulnerable enough, and I was in a full-blown quarter-life crisis."

    Charlotte speaking in front of a photo of Katie at an event wearing a white turban. text behind Katie says girlboss

    Though practitioners often refer to kundalini yoga as an "ancient technology," the practice was founded in the 1960s by Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, aka Yogi Bhajan, a former customs agent who immigrated to the US from India. Kundalini yoga involves intense breathwork and chanting and mixes new-age ideology with Sikh teachings.

    Group of people in white clothing with arms raised in a yoga pose, promoting wellness and community

    In her video, Charlotte describes the first class she took from Griggs, saying, "There was this excitement in the air, like how it feels before a concert is about to start." During the class, Charlotte says, "Guru Jagat gave this long lecture, and she was very charismatic and very confident. She's talking about Kundalini yoga as this technology that gets you high on your own supply and it makes your brain secrete all these chemicals so you literally have a biochemical experience of feeling stronger and healthier and happier."

    "And I just ate it up. I thought she was super cool, super funny, and she seems really real and down to earth." 

    After the class, Charlotte took a flyer home for Grigg's Venice Beach studio RA MA Institute and followed the teacher on Instagram. But it would be a couple more years before Charlotte got more deeply involved in the group.

    Charlotte says her involvement in the group intensified when, after becoming unemployed, she took a job working directly under Griggs as her Director of Marketing. She told BuzzFeed, "Cults take up all your time. As soon as I started working for RA MA, my life became completely consumed by it."

    She continued, saying, "Everything felt 'mission-critical,' pushing me into this intense cycle of stress, on top of trying to squeeze in as much kundalini yoga as possible." 

    Despite the all-consuming work, Vanity Fair reported that RA MA employees were paid less than minimum wage and were treated as contractors with zero benefits. Meanwhile, Griggs reportedly lived a lavish lifestyle, buying designer clothes and ordering food on Postmates up to five times a day.

    Charlotte says the group used sleep deprivation as a control tactic. "Kundalini yoga says 4 a.m. is the most powerful time of day to practice, but on the days I managed to wake up that early, I’d end up feeling completely drained and out of it for the rest of the day. That kind of exhaustion clouds your judgment and makes you way more open to manipulation."

    Charlotte showing a picture of herself during this time when she looks exhausted while saying her identity was wrapped up in her job

    Additionally, Charlotte told BuzzFeed, "Altered states were also a huge part of this cult. When you do Kundalini yoga, you’re chanting a lot, doing breathwork that’s borderline hyperventilation, and holding your arms in weird poses for long periods of time. It puts you in a hypnotic trance, making you feel euphoric and high."

    "I got super addicted to it, thinking these transcendent experiences were all part of my spiritual awakening. But looking back, I see it as a form of mystical manipulation—it hijacked my critical thinking and kept me trapped."

    Charlotte's story mirrors accounts from cult survivors like Debora Giannone, a former member of NXIVM who spoke to BuzzFeed in 2022. Initially, everything seems amazing as group members love bomb recruits and encourage them to share vulnerable information that can be used against them later.

    Chants and rituals are often central to bonding members together, dissent is swept under the rug, and members are encouraged to overwork because they're going to "change the world." People are often drastically underpaid while also being pressured to be on 24/7. 

    Then, when people want to leave the group, there are big exit costs. Leaving the group means that you'll be cut off by remaining members, which can mean losing all social support.

    In her videos, Charlotte shares that she was very scared to leave her job under Griggs and lose touch with the RA MA group. She says, "I was overworked, sleep-deprived, and completely disassociated. I was too scared to leave because once you left, you were excommunicated."

    Charlotte speaking in front of a text from Guru Jagat that reads this has been totally mismanaged fuck you fuck you all. Charlotte says so I'm waking up to text messages like this every morning

    But in 2020, Charlotte finally hit her breaking point as Griggs began endorsing conspiracy theories about Covid, attempting to discredit the sexual abuse allegations that were coming out about her teacher Yogi Bhajan, and sending far-right memes to followers who protested the murder of George Floyd.

    Charlotte talking with a list behind her of reasons she should leave the group

    Even after she left, Charlotte hadn't yet labeled RA MA as a cult until a docuseries about NXIVM shifted her perspective. "In August of 2022, months after I left, The Vow premieres on HBO, and my jaw is literally on the floor. The way that they're describing the structure and the dynamics of NXIVM has so many parallels to my experience, and all of these light bulbs are going off, and I realize, 'Oh my god, I was in a cult.'"

    View this video on YouTube

    HBO / Via youtube.com

    Charlotte told BuzzFeed that this revelation came with a lot of shame. "I honestly thought I was doing something good by getting people to do kundalini yoga and 'raise the frequency of the planet.' But in reality, it was all a lie. I got scammed into devoting myself to a charismatic but ultimately insane leader. Coming to terms with that was such a mindfuck, and it took a long time to process and heal."

    However, since leaving the group, Charlotte says she's much more at peace. "When I was in the cult, there was always this feeling that I wasn't enough—like I wasn’t meditating enough or doing enough. But now I just live and let live. I give myself more time to just chill and rest. I've gotten better at trusting myself and taking responsibility for my life without seeking approval from others. It’s been so freeing, and I feel so much lighter and at ease in the world."

    Though many people think it could never happen to them, Charlotte says that anyone could be indoctrinated into a cult under the right circumstances. "Cults prey on doubts, fears, and rough patches we ALL experience at some point in our lives. For me, that was at 25, when my life seemed to be falling apart. I was broke, lost, and overwhelmed with hopelessness. Nothing seemed to be working out, and I felt a lot of shame about it. When I joined the cult, all those painful feelings went away."

    Group of people seated on grass in meditation pose at an outdoor event overlaid with tiktok comments saying you are right about this happening to anyone. I almost got sucked in to a twin flames cult

    Finally, Charlotte spoke about why she's so open now about sharing her story. "The New Age spirituality scene is full of scams, frauds, and cults, and I feel like my story is a cautionary tale for anyone getting into that world. And as the former Director of Marketing, I feel it's my responsibility to expose the cultic dynamics and exploitative practices happening behind the scenes at RA MA."

    "I'm honestly blown away by how much my story's resonating with people. The response on TikTok has been amazing, and I've loved connecting with others who've had similar experiences." Charlotte is currently working on a memoir about her experience.

    Follow Charlotte on TikTok.