How Bikram Yoga Evolved into Evolation Yoga with Mark Drost and Zefea Samson

Mark and Zefea of Evolation Yoga

Mark and Zefea of Evolation Yoga

by Kara-Leah Grant

Mark Drost was once a Bikram Senior Teacher, completely immersed in the Bikram World.

Like so many though, there were aspects of the Bikram Culture that bugged him. He could see the yoga was run on fear and control and it didn’t sit well with him.

After six years in the inner circle, and after meeting his wife Zefea Samson, Mark left.

He and Zefea took everything they had learned during their time with Bikram, and prior, and used it to create Evolation Yoga.

They based it on Bikram’s 26 postures sequence because they believed in the power of that yoga to heal and transform, but they also introduced other elements they though were missing – like meditation.

The other key element they’ve introduced to their yoga is an emphasis on flexibility and change – the ability to evolve:

And as the needs of our students evolve, so will we. We’re open to change. In fact, it’s our goal. If it’s transformation we seek, we won’t find it by staying static.

Bikram Choudhury wasn’t so happy though. In 2011 he sued Evolation Yoga and two other yoga studios for copyright infringement. The other two studios ended up settling out of court, but Evolation defended themselves all the way.

In the end, the judge ruled Choudhury’s copyrights cover only his books and videos describing his system, not the actual performance of the moves themselves.  The ruling confirmed that Bikram Choudhury can’t prevent other studios from offering “hot yoga” classes using the same 26-posture sequence used in Bikram classes.

The fight’s not over though. Bikram has appealed the judge’s ruling but Mark and Zefea are confident of the copyright law and are determined to see this through, once and for all.

In the meantime, Mark and Zefea are also busy running teacher trainings around the world, and building a collective of other teachers to help with those trainings.

Not only do they focus on training teachers, but they’re also passionate about providing support for opening yoga studios. Not the kind of rigid demands that Bikram would make on affiliate studios, but:

… a network of instructors and studio owners where ideas, talent, expertise can be shared to fuel everyone’s growth.

I spoke to Mark and Zefea and they spoke candidly about their time with Bikram, the inspiration for Evolation, the need for evolution in yoga, the lawsuits and how self-inquiry is the corner-stone of any teacher training.

Mark and Zefea from Evolation Yoga on
Bikram Choudhury, Lawsuits and the Evolution of Yoga

More About Evolation and Evolation Teacher Training:

Evolation studios teach the hot yoga Primary Hot Series, originally defined by Bikram Choudhury. We also offer Flow, Ashtanga and Yin classes, and a 60 minute version of the Primary Series.

Evolation was founded by Mark Drost and Zefea Samson. Mark spent 6 years as a senior member of the Bikram training staff. Prior to his time with the Bikram organisation he practiced and studied in the Yogananda / Ghosh lineage for over 20 years. Zefea has been on the yoga path since the age of 5 and competed in the top 10 at the International Yoga Asana championships for 4 years. They created evolation to provide a comprehensive inclusive and intimate training experience for students who wanted to study the hot yoga Primary Series, without the associated attachments.

Evolation has grown into a worldwide collective of teachers and studios working together to help develop a unified global yoga community; with studios in America, S. America and Australia – and affiliate studios in Europe and Asia.

Evolation Yoga, and it’s teacher training, is accessible, collective and inclusive.

  • Evolation Hot Yoga Teacher Training is a 200hr course focused on teaching the hot yoga Primary Hot Series,  originally defined by Bikram Choudhury. You will explore the essentials of yoga philosophy, anatomy and mechanics that underpin this sequence – in an inclusive and intimate training environment.
  • Evolation Flow Yoga Teacher Training is a 200hr course focused on teaching a transformative and instructional flow class. You will follow the core evolation curriculum, with an emphasis on the asanas, sequencing and modifications that make up a Flow 75 class.
  • Beyond 26+2 is a 7 day immersion program for qualified hot yoga and Bikram yoga teachers. On this continuing education course you will expand your knowledge of  hot yoga and advance your ability to teach the Primary Hot Series.

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Comments

  1. David says

    What a crock! Ego?? No person has greater egos than Mark and Zefea. I enrolled and completed their so-called teacher training course. The course then cost around $2800. Today, that same useless training costs much more. And, where does an Evolation trained teacher teach? No where. Unlike a Bikram certified teacher with literally an unlimited number of opportunities, Evolation teachers are regarded as chumps. Yes, they can teach in an Evolation studio, but be aware that there are many Evolation teachers available for each studio…which really keeps costs down for the two yoga bunnies.

    Regarding Zefea: Loud, unpleasant, unrelenting in castigating students; she simply enjoys embarrassing, intimating, and humiliating people. She constantly spoke unpleasantly about Americans. She truly believes the people her country are superior to the American people in every manner. Regardless, she loves the money Americans pay for her ridiculous training.

    Regarding Mark: A ner’do’well, a Bikram wanna be but never will be, an instructor who is unable to develop a yoga system on his own, a person who like so many others had to steal from the Bikram system.

    Bikram: Brought yoga to the world. He did not invent the postures his system teaches. He selected from the many postures he used in India to heal broken bodies precisely 26 postures that if practiced many times a month would heal ailments that doctors are unable to heal. Bikram and his wife brought a tremendous gift to America. Unfortunately, wealth always attracts prostitutes, and IMO that defines Zefea and Mark.

    • mark drost says

      David

      I have to call BS on this one. You are obviously a Bikram acolyte in a thin disguise. You certainly have never spent any real open minded time with my wife. When describing Zefea you are describing Bikram spot on! My guess is if you did have any contact with us you were one of the poor souls that quit before you started. Like I said though its more likely this is typical Bikram BS through and through and we have never even met you..

      Just as a side note there are currently hundreds of Evolation teachers teaching all over the world in many different types of studios. The fact is there are far more of these teachers teaching in non Evolation studios than affiliated studios. Many of our teachers are teaching in Bikram studios as well.

      Enjoy your imaginary life

      mark

    • Zefea says

      David,
      Please refresh my memory, when and where did you do the evolation training? If you indeed were there then you know that feedback is big part of the process and we give everyone plenty of opportunity to reflect. Its a shame that some people feel the need to trash others this way in the pubic realm instead of saying what they have to say directly to us. I always listen and try to implement. Our trainings are constantly changing and hopefully evolving.

      The only time I make fun of people is when I talk about the funny habits of my home country -well, and humanity in general-. Do you even know which country that is?
      I dont really care about Americans money, or anybody’s money for that matter. If I would I would certainly have chosen a different profession.

      We agree with the gift that Bikram has brought to the world. We are not pretending that we know better than a man who has dedicated his entire life to yoga. The best compliment you can give to your teacher is to continue to pass on what you have learned.

      Even though I am responding to some of these personal stabs, evolation is not about Mark and Zefea. If someone takes my concentrated face or frowned eyebrowes as unpleasant or castigating then luckily they can turn to every other teacher. We have a continually growing team of experienced, knowledgeable AND super friendly trainers. Because unlike Bikrams tyrannic kingdom evolation is and always will be a collective.

      • Kara-Leah Grant says

        Hey Zefea,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to David, and clarifying some of the feedback processes that Evolution uses in it’s teacher training.

    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      Hey David,

      It sounds like you had a bad experience at yoga teacher training. Maybe working directly through whatever issues arose with Mark & Zefa would be more productive than leaving a comment?

    • Jeannie Savage says

      David-

      It’s hard for me to believe that you actually went through the training. This training is in no way useless. I find myself constantly encouraging people to go through the training whether they want to be a yoga teacher or not. Do you know why?! It is good for life!! I completed the training and have had two studios offer me teaching positions and neither one of them is an Evolation studio. I have an unlimited number of opportunities, just as anyone else does. I have never seen or heard anyone regard an Evolaton teacher as a chump. It must be just you and the close-minded people you surround yourself with.

      Regarding Zefea: She is pleasant, funny, hardworking and a great example of someone who does not/will not give up. I have never heard her speak badly about a group of people. She is not a lover of money. I wasn’t able to pay for my training at the time and they worked with me so that I was able to participate in the training! I am absolutely grateful and thankful that they worked with me because this training changed my life.

      Regarding Mark: Mark is not a Bikram wanna be, but you’re right about one thing: Mark will never be Bikram! He does not want to be Bikram and he doesn’t try to be him. Mark was and is able to develop a yoga system. That is why Evolation is growing and will continue to grow successfully. They trained with Bikram and took their experience and saw an opportunity for growth. They saw an opportunity to better the training, better the yoga community and for you to try and bring that down is really, quite sad. You get out of it what you put into it, what comes around goes around! Your petty insults and empty words will not bring Evolation down.

      I guess it’s easy for you to sit in front of your computer and attempt to call people out. It was a failed attempt because you know nothing of what you speak of. I lived closely with Mark, Zefea and the Evolation team for a month all day, every day. After I completed the training, I still continue to talk with them! They are so open, inviting and encouraging. They offer words of advice if you need any and encourage you to come back to future trainings to meet new trainees, teach, train some more, whatever it is that you can do!! I am happy and blessed to be apart of the Evolation team! Watch us grow!

  2. Patrick says

    I had a similarly unpleasant experience with evolation. I found Mark to be very high ego, self-absorbed, with very little true knowledge to offer. He had to be the center of attention at all times, and I believe his business model is based on finding young, impressionable victims. Though I did not find Zefea to be as brash, her associastion with Mark is hard to explain away. Their system is nowhere near as friendly and inclusive as their marketing will lead you to believe; they actually want students to learn slowly because they will eventually realized the training is a dead end.

    • Mark Drost says

      Hi Patrick

      Its hard to take you seriously when you didn’t pay for your training and you faked your way through the whole process of the training. You then proceeded to pay back your training debt by teaching some the weakest classes we have ever had at our studios and we lost countless students because of it. The only reason you are bitter is because my brother did not want you to teach for him in our studios any more because of this fact. We did our best to help you after the training even though you were not prepared to teach.

      All this being said its refreshing to see a real persons comments on here and we welcome you back to the training process any time to finish what you started. We will do our best to check our egos at the door as we always try to do.

  3. Leticia says

    My teacher training experience with Evolation yoga was so far beyond anything I could have hoped for. I came into the training with very limited knowledge about the 26 & 2 sequence but quickly became a firm believer in the power and healing possible with this specific sequence. I witnessed firsthand the changes and benefits happening within my own body over the course of my month long training, but deeper than the physical aspect of the asana practice, I experienced a great shift in my way of thinking. The way they present the trainees with so many different tools to dive deeper within ones own Self not only during the training, but also before and after for ongoing study is invaluable and what I believe sets this training apart from any other. I learned that with the right intention and willingness to work hard and create room for experience to happen I could not only transform my life but also the lives of others through the teaching of yoga. The teacher-training with Evolation is more of a life training as you are presented the tools to really change the way you think, act, and feel personally first and then from that really channel your own personality and flavor into your teaching and give that energy to your students. One goal in the training is to truly focus on what best serves your students and even further beyond that, what serves the greater good. All the teachers I was fortunate enough to work with including founders Mark and Zefea, truly embody this vision of serving the higher good and working towards something greater than ones own ego. Their depth of knowledge is limitless and the Evolation team as a collective is truly impressive with people from all different areas of expertise contributing to this dream team working to change the world and spread the yoga love. Mark and Zefea are truly special people who believe in something greater than themselves and have been gifted to this world to spread the joy and love that is yoga. I am so very grateful to have crossed paths with these enlightened beings and am proud to say I am a member of the Evolation family. I can think of no better two people more aptly fit to pass on the knowledge and power that is yoga in addition to their collective support system of teachers around the world and I hope to see many more new faces at future teacher trainings as I work in conjunction with the Evolation family.

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