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Mark Drost defied guru Bikram Choudhury, and prevailed.

Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, has asserted the exclusivity of his technique, suing unaffiliated yoga studios for allegedly imitating his program. His claims of copyright infringement, backed by a formidable legal team, often intimidated alleged offenders.

However, Mark Drost and Zefea Samson, the owners of Evolation Yoga, resisted Choudhury’s claims. In 2011, Choudhury sued them, but they refused to concede. On October 8, a panel of judges from the U. S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, reinforcing a lower court’s decision from December 2012.

Drost stated, “That first ruling was significant, but the decision from the appeals court has major implications for the yoga community worldwide. Yoga transcends transient trends. Attempts to monopolize specific sequences stifle innovation and hinder the dissemination of yoga’s teachings.”

Neither Choudhury nor his legal representatives responded to inquiries regarding the ruling or the possibility of appealing to the U. Supreme Court.

Drost’s Connection to Bikram Yoga

After obtaining certification as a Bikram instructor in 2002, Drost collaborated closely with Choudhury for five years, assisting in the organization of international teacher-training events. Choudhury’s workshops typically lasted nine consecutive weeks and cost students between $12,400 and $16,600, depending on accommodation choices.

Samson, certified as a Bikram instructor since 2005, also had a close association with Choudhury. However, by 2008, the couple had witnessed enough of Choudhury’s intimidating behavior and decided to distance themselves from his organization.

Choudhury, now 69 years old, faces allegations of sexual assault and rape in civil court documents filed by former trainees. He has not been charged with any criminal offenses and denies any wrongdoing.

Evolation Yoga and the Legacy of Bikram Yoga

Drost and Samson launched Evolation Yoga in late 2008, which has since expanded to include multiple affiliates. Earlier this year, they opened a studio in Summerland offering instructor training, meditation, vinyasa, kids yoga, and hot-room classes based on the Bikram method.

Drost acknowledges the positive aspects of Choudhury’s contributions: “We honor the teacher-student relationship with Bikram. His techniques are effective, his sequence is well-designed, and he has introduced hatha yoga to countless individuals who would not have encountered it otherwise. We recognize that as a valuable contribution.”

Credit and rights belong to OMG I Yoga


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