Federal Court Rules that Bikram Doesn’t Own Yoga: Copyright Claim Can’t Stand the Heat

In a much-anticipated ruling that will affect the yoga community worldwide, a federal court pronounced on Dec. 14 that the popular sequence of 26 yoga postures that Bikram Choudhury has claimed as his own is, in fact, not copyrightable, and therefore, may be taught freely.

It may come as a surprise, even among people who practice Bikram Yoga, that "Bikram" is a person - Bikram Choudhury, the charismatic and often controversial hatha yoga guru who is as famous for his collection of Rolexes as he is for healing the broken bodies of Beverly Hills' most rich and famous with a specific sequence of 26 yoga postures performed in a heated room. Those who wish to teach that sequence, however, very quickly become aware that "Bikram" is not a method, but a man -- a man who claims to own the 26-posture sequence, and who will not hesitate to sue anyone who teaches it without his explicit permission.

This is precisely what happened to evolation yoga, a collective of yoga teachers and studios founded by Mark Drost, one of Choudhury's students and, formerly, one of his closest associates. Drost started evolation in 2009 to create opportunities for yoga teachers and students with a foundation in the 26-posture sequence to, well, "evolve and elevate" the practice and themselves. "From the beginning, our intention was not to replicate or imitate Bikram," Drost says. "Rather, we made a conscious choice to part ways with Bikram Yoga, because we saw room for improvement in the sequence, the teaching method, and the philosophy, and we were not free to explore those things as part of the Bikram organization."

Indeed, Choudhury requires his affiliates to adhere to a very rigid business model and class structure. Bikram Yoga studios may not offer any classes other than the 90-minute class in a 105-degree room. Teachers may not veer from the 26-posture sequence even slightly, and must repeat a specific class script ("the dialog") during every class. Studios are required to have specific physical dimensions and very specific characteristics, such as carpeted yoga room floors, mirrors, and podiums. On top of which, in recent years, Choudhury has attempted to create a franchise, requiring studios to pay him substantial fees and relinquish even further control over their businesses (which may be closed down entirely at Choudhury's whim).

After many years of maintaining Bikram Yoga studios under these restrictions, Drost and his wife Zefea Samson (also an experienced Bikram Yoga teacher and decorated yoga champion) decided that, as teachers, practitioners, and business owners, it was time to move on. They converted their Bikram Yoga studio in Buffalo, NY to evolation yoga Buffalo, and they began to offer their own teacher training program, which teaches the 26 postures from a decidedly different perspective, with much greater emphasis on nuance, yoga philosophy, and individual mentoring. They offer teacher training sessions around the world, but most frequently in their state-of-the-art headquarters in North Tonawanda, NY and in what they call the “evolation Oasis” in Santa Barbara, CA.

Soon after forming evolation, Drost and Samson partnered with local Bikram-certified teacher Summer Crawford to open evolation yoga Tampa in Tampa, Florida. The studio offers the core evolation classes, including the "Hot 90", in which the 26-posture sequence is taught with a few variations to increase safety and facilitate more attention to breath and meditation. Evolation also offers a more beginner-friendly 60-minute class (the "Warm 60", which introduces the 26 postures in a one-set sequence, with a bit less heat and a bit more instruction), as well as meditation classes ("Chill 30") and vinyasa-based Flow, Prenatal, and Gentle classes.

Crawford explains that in all of their offerings, the current evolation studios embody many of the values that the owners carried over from their Bikram Yoga background, such as a straightforward teaching style, minimal distractions and frills, and an emphasis on discipline and mindfulness. However, "from our wooden floors, to our wider range of classes, to our overall less-rigid approach to yoga, the student's experience at evolation bears little resemblance to the experience at a Bikram studio." Thus, to avoid confusion, and to make a clean and respectful break from their teacher, evolation chose not to use any of Choudhury's intellectual property, including his name, his likeness, or the term "Bikram Yoga." Choudhury is famous for telling students and affiliates that "it's my way or the highway" -- so, as Crawford states, "we chose the highway." Nevertheless, based on their use of the 26-posture sequence, in 2011, Choudhury filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement against Drost, Samson, and evolation yoga LLC. Around the same time, Choudhury filed similar lawsuits against two other hot yoga organizations, including the much-publicized Yoga To The People in New York.

Although Choudhury has brought multiple lawsuits over the years, all have settled before a court had a chance to rule on the validity of his alleged copyright. Unfortunately, Choudhury inaccurately portrayed these settlements as “victories” in the media, implying that anyone who teaches the sequence is on the wrong side of the law. For this reason, evolation was committed to seeing the case through to a judgment, in the hopes that clarity on the issue would lead to less fear, intimidation, and divisiveness in the yoga world.  

Seeing it through would not have been possible without the substantial legwork of Greg Gumucio of Yoga To The People, who tirelessly trudged through the early stages of his own lawsuit and inspired the yoga community to take a stand.
Nor would it have been possible without the commitment, support, and vision of evolation’s attorney, Eric Maier of Maier Shoch LLP (based in Los Angeles). Maier was determined to resolve the issue of yoga “ownership” once and for all, and he kept his focus sharp, refusing to be intimidated or distracted by Choudhury’s camp. Although other issues remain in the lawsuit, Maier calls this resolution of the main question “a total game changer.”

Crawford, a former attorney herself, is “thrilled” with the ruling, not just because it releases evolation and the yoga community from decades of restriction and intimidation, but because it is simply good law. She explains, “it always has been the case that healing processes cannot be owned. That's why Bikram had to argue that this sequence is a ‘pantomime or choreographic work.’ Really? I seriously doubt that even he believes that. We all know that it's something we do because it has real effects on the body, not because it's some sort of artistic expression. I'm kind of amazed that he would deny those healing effects just for the sake of winning and controlling others! This sequence, like every other yoga sequence that gets created every day, is in the public domain, like CPR, or like a recipe. It is certainly possible to be grateful to Bikram for putting it out there without going 10 steps further to conclude that he should be able to control the businesses and personal lives of everyone who utilizes it.”

Drost goes on to note that "Bikram has been, essentially, trying to hold this particular yoga sequence hostage, so that no one can improve upon it, re-interpret it, or teach it with a different energy. It is hard to see how this serves his goal of bringing yoga to as many people as possible."

"We were not looking for a fight," he adds, "but when we found ourselves defending against this stranglehold on a practice that has been handed down without restrictions throughout its history -- essentially, defending yoga itself -- we resolved to take it all the way in service to the greater community." And, he notes with a genuine smile, "we, collectively, won. We hope from the bottom of our hearts that this will bring all of us in the yoga community closer, so we can support each other on this path."

**For more information about this topic, to contribute to the defense effort, or to schedule an interview with Mark Drost, Eric Maier, or local affiliates of evolation yoga, please email mark@evolationyoga.com

    
  

Yoga & Wellness Events for the Week of December 14th - December 20th, 2012

Spirit Yoga with Jen Smith 14 December 2012 at Bella Prana Yoga and Meditation in Tampa, FL

Vedic Thai-Yoga Bodywork Training/Workshop 14 December 2012 in Delray Beach, FL

Thai Yoga Bodywork- Exploratory Class with "Mukti" Michael Buck 14 December 2012 at The Lotus Pond in Tampa, FL

THE MAIN CENTRAL ENERGY FLOW ~ Through THE ART OF JIN SHIN JYUTSU with Ruth Ann Rauter 15 December 2012 at Jai Dee Yoga and Wellness in Tampa, FL

Thai Yoga Bodywork 2-Day Course with "Mukti" Michael Buck 14-15 December 2012 at Lotus Pond in Tampa, FL

Introduction to Yoga and Meditation Workshop at BIOFIT HEALTH CENTER 15 December 2012 in Orlando, FL

BoomerPlus® Yoga Training- Module 1 Led by Amy Kraft, ERYT-500 15-16 December 2012 at Garden of the Heart Yoga Center in Sarasota, FL

Find more Yoga and Wellness Events on our website!

Yoga & Wellness Events for the Week of December 7th - December 13th, 2012

 

Weekend Workshop with Deb Neubauer 07 December 2012 at Garden of the Heart in Sarasota, FL

Chakras (part 2:Move into Bliss) with Michele Smith, RMT, RYT 08 December 2012 at Jai-Dee Yoga and Wellness in Tampa, FL

Activating the Chakras with Sam Belyea 08 December 2012 at Bella Prana Yoga and Meditation in Tampa, FL

Young Yogis PJ Party! with Karen Kessel 08 December 2012 at Bella Prana Yoga and Meditation in Tampa, FL

FREE Yoga Class & YTT Info Session with Lotus Pond Teacher Training Instructors 08 December 2012 at The Lotus Pond in Tampa, FL

Navigating Labor 08 December 2012 at Yogani Studio in Tampa, FL

Shhhhh - from Sukasana to Savasana 08 December 2012 at YogaFix Orlando in Casselberry, FL

MALA Making Workshop with Theresa Rubbo 08 December 2012 at The Lotus Pond in Tampa, FL

Rasa-Lila Yoga United Holiday Social + Art & Fashion Show 08 December 2012 at The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, FL

"Pamper Yourself" Charity Event 09 December 2012 at BIOFIT HEALTH CENTER in Orlando, FL

Jai Dee Winter Party 09 December 2012 at Jai-Dee Yoga and Wellness Studio in Tampa, FL

12/12/12 Yoga & Meditation 12 December 2012 at Raydiance Wellness Center in Tampa, FL

Joy to You - A Yoga, Meditation, and Music Experience with Sarah Lesch 13 December 2012 at Bella Prana Yoga & Meditation in Tampa, FL

Find more Yoga & Wellness Events on RasaLilaFest.com !!

Yoga & Wellness Events for the Week of November 30th - December 6th, 2012

Yoga & Wellness Events for the Week of November 30th - December 6th, 2012

Yoga Gangsters Outreach & At-Risk Certification with Terri Cooper (Orlando) 30 November 2012 at Guruv Yoga in Lake Mary, FL

Ashley Halley & Menscha: Embrace, Explore, Evolve 30 November 2012 at Yogani Studios in Tampa, FL

Soar High: Arm Balance and Inversions with Heidi Templeton 01 December 2012 at Jai Dee Yoga in Tampa, FL

Introduction to Acroyoga (SAT) & Intro to Slackline Yoga (SUN) 01-02 December 2012 at Yogani Studios in Tampa, FL

Rejuvenate before the Holidays 1-day local Yoga Retreat in St Pete with Missy Feathers E-RYT200 and Ruben Vasquez E-RYT500 01 December 2012 at Hip Expressions in St Petersburg, FL

Flying Partner Yoga/Therapeutics & Partner Acrobatics 02 December 2012 at The Yoga Joint in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Joy to You - A Yoga, Meditation, and Music Experience with Sarah Lesch 06 December 2012 at Bella Prana Yoga & Meditation Tampa, FL

Find more Yoga & Wellness Events on RasaLilaFest.com !!

Yoga & Wellness Events for the Week of November 26 - December 2nd, 2012

Yoga Techniques for Dealing with Stress through the Holidays with Val Spies 27 November 2012 at Lotus Pond in Tampa, FL

Yoga Teacher Training Info Meeting at THE LOTUS POND (with Val Spies) 28 November 2012 at Lotus Pond in Tampa, FL

Yoga Gangsters Outreach & At-Risk Certification with Terri Cooper (Orlando) 30 November 2012 at Guruv Yoga in Lake Mary, FL

Ashley Halley & Menscha: Embrace, Explore, Evolve 30 November 2012 at Yogani Studios in Tampa, FL

Soar High: Arm Balance and Inversions with Heidi Templeton 01 December 2012 at Jai Dee Yoga in Tampa, FL

Introduction to Acroyoga (SAT) & Intro to Slackline Yoga (SUN) 01-02 December 2012 at Yogani Studios in Tampa, FL

Rejuvenate before the Holidays 1-day local Yoga Retreat in St Pete with Missy Feathers E-RYT200 and Ruben Vasquez E-RYT500 01 December 2012 at Hip Expressions in St Petersburg, FL

Flying Partner Yoga/Therapeutics & Partner Acrobatics 02 December 2012 at The Yoga Joint, Fort Lauderdale FL

 

Find more Yoga & Wellness Events on RasaLilaFest.com !!

Shop Small with these Rasa-Lila Fest Vendors on Small Business Saturday November 24, 2012

Yoga Flow Essential Oils - Essential Oils, Ayurvedic Oils, Blends and Soap

 

Hoola Monsters - Professional hula hoops, hair feathers and belly dance gear

 

To Each His OM - Hand embellished yoga wear for men and women, hand crafted yoga accessories and craft - jewelry and yoga people, re-purposed denim mat bags

 

Isha Foundation - Yoga CD/DVD,Flyers, Books, Organic Merchandise - T-shirts, soap, incense

 

YogaEtc Studio - Yoga related items and gift certificates

 

Iskcon of Alachua - Spiritual books, clothing, spiritual items

 

Tranquil Abiding - All hand made, each piece is unique, beautiful and affordable: Gemstone necklaces and malas, bracelets, earrings, anklets and yoga mat ties. Each unique piece comes with a card attached describing the metaphysical healing properties of that particular stone and is delivered to the new owner in a reusable cloth gift bag

 

White Orchid Yoga - Yoga Apparel, T-Shirts, Mats, and Jewelry

 

Acupuncture & Herbal Therapies, Herbalists Training Program - Primarily information about school, herbs and acupuncture

 

Yogani Studios - Yoga studio gift certificates, yoga merchandise, Thai massage and personal training

 

Mahila Partnership - Photographs; distribution of Mahila Retreat Costa Rica Post Cards, Selling of Mahila Organic Cotton Bags

 

YogaStage - Marketing materials for Yoga Instructors

 

Jai Dee Yoga & Wellness Studio - Yoga, Yoga Wellness & Massage Studio Gift Certificates

 

Dunedin Pilates Studio - Pilates Studio and Teacher Training Center Gift Certificates & Pilates accessories

 

Nirvana Mama - This hip and stylish organic collection includes: short and long sleeve tees, snap-bottom onesies, matching accessories: bibs, bags, hats & tee's for mom & dad

 

Bella Prana Yoga and Meditation - Yoga Studio Gift Cards, Merchandise and Clothing

 

Empath Yoga - Showing Up Naked paperback book; Yoga to Open the Heart DVD; Hypnosis for Letting Go CD; Prayer Beads; yoga jewelry; hand batik tapestries & sarongs; indigenous musical instruments

 

Going Green Tampa - We offer an eco-friendly directory of businesses and events in Tampa as well as a blog on eco-living

 

Pranic Healing Center of Tampa - Pranic Healing books, CD's and accessories and we will be offering complimentary healing sessions

 

Arbonne International - Anti-aging skin care, spa detox, baby, organic cosmetics, gluten free & vegan wellness products like protein shakes, healthy energy drinks, antioxidant shots, pre/probiotics & digestive enzymes, aromatherapy, and many more results-oriented Swiss products

 

Florida Hand Salts - All natural salt scrub!

 

Visalus Body by Vi - The Visalus Body by Vi 90 Day Challenge combines leading health products with the support to help people achieve their weight loss and fitness goals, save money along the way, and win from millions in prizes every year

 

Acupuncture and Natural Therapies - Our treatments include a variety of techniques such as Acupuncture, Medicinal Herbal Formulas, and much more

 

Stasia's Organic Element Salon - Professional organic hair and skin care products

 

Alison J. Kay, PhD Holistic Life Coaching & Energy Healing - Energy Healings: chakra balancing through energy medicine; Thetahealing removal of subconscious blocks in any/all areas of life so you can thrive

 

groOrganic - Organic Gardening Services

 

evolation yoga Tampa - Yoga studio; teacher training gift certificates 

 

Wave of Wellness - Stand Up Paddleboards & accessories, Bomber Eyewear, Balance Trainers

 

YogaFix Orlando - Yoga classes and massage therapy

 

be the breath - Organic & recycled P.E.T shirts and tanks, mala, peace, and inspiring charm bracelets and necklaces (acai seed, recycled glass, and other natural sources), recycled and up-cycled key chains, organic and recycled cotton yoga mat bags and tote bags, seiza meditation benches and inspirational signs made from reclaimed lumber, eco-friendly yoga mats, and our "breathing inspirations" butterfly mobiles

 

Laughter Yoga Orlando - Videos, CDs, shirts, laughing pens

 

Winter Garden Yoga - Manual/DVDs and Yoga Studio Gift Cards

 

Everything Zen Yoga -  Yoga memberships and package

 

Pranic Healing Central Florida - We have books, CDs & some cleansing sprays

 

Serenity Now Yoga - Yoga memberships and package

 

College Park Yoga - Yoga Classes, Yoga retreat 2013, Vampire Yoga tickets, Top of the line yoga clothing, mats, rugs and other accessories

 

Hoop So Fly! - Hand-crafted Adult and Kid sized Dance Hoops, Belly-dance skirts, Dance Accessories, Juggling Supplies

 

Yoga East - Yoga memberships and package

 

Ananda Center for Yoga & Massage - Massage & reiki services

 

Indo Board Balance Trainer - The Indo Board product line consists of 8 different sized decks, 3 different sized rollers and 2 different sized IndoFLo balance cushions

 

Inspirational Empowerment Facilitator & Coach Anthony Diaz - Legal/Spiritual/Life Coach

 

One Yoga and Fitness - Mala Beads, Chakra Sprays, Aromatherapy Sprays, Mat Bags, ToYou Snack Bars

 

I LOVE YOGA BRAND - Yoga inspired clothing

 

THE GOOD VIBRATION "YOGA for a New World" - Yoga clothes and accessories. Handmade items as well, Yoga memberships and package

 

Guruv Yoga - Yoga memberships and package

 

Amrit Yoga Institute - Books, CDs, jewelry, cards, yoga mats

 

Bikram Yoga Winter Garden - Yoga memberships and package

 

Cat Melnyk Photography - Photography

 

Amy Cintron Jewelry - Necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Custom orders too

 

Biofit Health Center - Yoga memberships and package, Stress management sessions with Biofeedback, Acupuncture session packages, Yoga wear and accessories

 

The Lotus Pond - Center For Yoga and Health - Meditation Cushion - Yoga Mat Bag - Apparel - Eye Pillow, Yoga memberships and package

 

Ashley Oliva - Independant Massage Therapist

 

Jenstones - Sterling silver rings, pendants, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Also one-of-a-kind prints and paintings

 

Bamboo Leaf Tea - organic tea and packaged raw foods

 

GanJam's - Clothing consisting of skirts, yoga pants, cotton pants, shawls, kurtas, kurtis, and some jewelery

 

Bhakti Yoga Society - Bhakti Yoga Books, Jewelry & Natural nutrition products 

 

Elements Wellness Center - helping and healing the Tampa area for years with our family of highly trained practitioners who will take the time to hear your concerns and work with you through a treatment

 

Caroline Karp Babis Creations - My art work is inspired by the human body shape and form as it relates to my yoga practice

 

Fresh Threads Consignment Shop - Unique, designer label contemporary consignment boutique

Do you want Santa to bring you an Indo Board this year!?

Do you want Santa to bring you an Indo Board this year! FREE SHIPPING starting at midnight till December 17th.

Have you been good this year? 

Indo Board, The Board Sport For Everyone Everywhere http://www.indoboard.com

The Indo Board goal is to introduce a FUN and CHALLENGING way to exercise the bodies balance control systems. Even though balance is so easily taken for granted, human movement is dependent on balance and coordination. In this new age of fitness awareness, the notion of balance training IS essential, particularly in board sports and all physical activities utilizing the core muscles.

Keeping the board from touching the ground for extended rides is both the goal and challenge.

Looking for a Thanksgiving Day Yoga Classes? Check out the events on Rasa-Lila Fest

Looking for a Thanksgiving Day Yoga Classes? Check out the events posted on the Rasa-Lila Fest website -

New Students of Everything Zen in Lake Mary & Orlando, FL take advantage of this speical

New Students of Everything Zen Yoga in Lake Mary and Orlando, Florida take advantage of this special.

Visit the studio for a few minutes after their regularly scheduled classes. Also, you can stop by before our workshop to purchase this deal!

As the name implies, Everything Zen Yoga wants to add a little zen to your life. Rose Batignani, E-RYT, opened the first Yoga studio in the Waterford Lakes area in August of 2010 with the intention of offering a place to calm the mind, relax the body and feed the soul. We offer classes for absolute beginners to more advanced vinyasa and power yogis.

Lao Tzu is famously quoted as stating, "The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

They invite you to begin your Yoga journey at Everything Zen Yoga!

801 Woodbury Road, Suite 101
Orlando, Florida 32828
Phone (407) 760-7930

Website http://www.everythingzenyoga.com

1061 S. Sun Drive, #1041
Lake Mary, Florida 32746
Today 9:30 am - 9:00 pm
Phone (407) 760-7930

RAsana-Lila of the Week: Tadasana, the Mountain of All Poses

The most important posture in yoga will help your posture. If you want to try yoga, start out simple.

The elements of this posture we will learn can be found in all most every yoga posture out there, from hand stand to "Warrior II."

Some would argue, it is found in every yoga posture. The pose? Tadasana(tah-DAHS-anna), or the mountain pose.

Why is this the most important? Because, the key actions of tadasana are the key actions for most yoga postures from table to handstand. The philosophy behind tadasana is how you get there.

So let’s try it. Begin three-part breathing. In through the nose, out through the nose. Stand up on your feet. Close or soften your gaze. If you have vertigo or get dizzy easy, just look down to lighten your gaze.

Keep your chin in line with chest. Now, draw feet together. If this is uncomfortable, then have your feet hip distance apart. In your mind, visualize the soles of your feet. The pads of the big toes all the way to pinky toes, down to heels, and then try to distribute the weight evenly across your feet. From the inner edges of the foot to the outer.

Most of the time in our lives we tend to stand heavy in one foot with unequal balance between the hips. Finding evenness in the feet is the main key action of the pose and will help with the alignment for the rest of the posture.

Now, connect with the outer and inner edges of the ankles and draw the energy to the knees, engage them, lifting them up towards the thighs. Then thighs lift up and roll back gently. The tailbone tucks slightly towards the earth. Your fingers drip towards the ground and the arms hang as the shoulders relax down and towards each other down the back.

To feel this on inhalation, purposely lift you shoulders up towards ears and then as you exhale, roll the shoulders back and down.

Try this posture for a good one or two minutes. When you release, tadasana, shake your hands out, shake your legs out, bend the knees and release the tension.

Believe it or not, there will be tension built if you have never concentrated on standing evenly in your feet. It takes a lot of effort and concentration when we first begin our practice to accomplish the most seemingly passive postures, like tadasana. I would suggest taking a one or two minute savasana after trying this because it will help your body absorb the effects of the posture.

Tadasana will not only help you understand more postures, but it will ultimately help you understand you body. The benefits? Better posture, makes you legs stronger, firms up your abs and buttocks, it may help release pain related to lower back issues and helps flat feet.

So practice, practice, practice. You can practice this anywhere, anytime. The next time you are in line at the grocery store or for a coffee at Starbucks, think: Mighty Mountain! 

Blog by Erin Wheeler on Patch.com

http://seminoleheights.patch.com/articles/yoga-101-tadasana-the-moutnain-of-all-poses#photo-4997569