Mark and Zefea by Joyelan

Self-awareness can be hard. When we take a look at who we are, sometimes we don’t like what we see. The result? We stop looking.

But thanks to two dynamic yogis, this journey of self-awareness doesn’t have to be so challenging.

Mark Drost and Zefea Samson are the founders of evolation yoga, and they understand embarking on a journey of self-realization means sometimes turning our expectations (and ourselves) upside down.

Evolation yoga is devoted to helping you become more self-centered – in an ego-free way. By combining the powerful physical properties of hot yoga with the awareness-enhancing effects of meditation, evolation’s aim is to make you healthier, happier, and more in touch with that elusive little thing called the Self.

It means peppering our foundation with experimentation to forge an entirely new path: merging the mental with the physical in order to transcend them both. Most of all, it means evolving our practice to elevate our understanding of our world.

Mark spent 6 years as a senior member of the Bikram training staff. Prior to his time with the Bikram organisation, Mark 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.

Mark and Zefea took a few minutes to talk to us about hot yoga.

How long have you been doing hot yoga?

Zefea: My first experience with yoga was as a young kid when my parents were practicing. Even though I had a period that I forgot all about it, it made a big impact and planted seeds for my future. Later I felt ready to go back to exploring yoga. The several different classes I tried didn’t resonate with me. The very first time I took a hot class though, I was hooked. I came back the next day. And the next. And never stopped. That was 10 years ago. Exactly one year after my first class I went to teacher training.

It was kind of a big ordeal. Bikrams training costs a lot of money and time. I had to jump through a lot of hoops to be able to take 9 weeks off and get from Europe to the US. After all those efforts and commitments to get there, the whole process was a bit disappointing. I didn’t learn as much about yoga, postures and philosophy as I had hoped for. This was one of our motivations to do things differently when we started evolation yoga in 2009.

We aim to give people a full, all round experience that not only prepares them to become great teachers, but also gives the tools to positively changes their lives and that of others. I cant think of anything better and fulfilling to do than teaching yoga!

Mark: I have been practicing some form of yoga for 32 years. For the first half of that journey my main focus was meditation. I always enjoyed meditation and movement in the sun on the beach in tropical places, so that’s where my hot yoga experience really all started.

I first walked into a hot Bikram studio 16 years ago. Because of the incredible healing effects it had on my back it quickly became my primary practice.

Why did you start practising hot yoga?

Zefea: Many people start to heal injuries, lose weight etc. I was fortunate to be reasonably healthy and happy. I started hot yoga out of curiosity. In my search to find the right place to reconnect with this practice that was introduced in my childhood, I found most classes too vague and uninspiring.

I kept passing by this place where I saw people coming out with happy, glowing, red faces. Not realizing it was a hot yoga studio, I walked in. I just had to find out what was going on! I immediately loved the intensity, the focus, but most of all the way I felt after class.

Mark: I was looking for a studio that resonated with me to have a regular practice. The yoga studio that was closest to where I was living just happened to be a hot studio, so the choice was out of convenience. It worked. I stayed.

What are some of the benefits of hot yoga that you don’t get otherwise?

Zefea: All yoga has amazing benefits. It balances out all systems in your body. The heat helps to accelerate those processes.

You will often experience the same benefits but much quicker. The body opens up more and gives a very safe opportunity and environment to explore new personal edges and boundaries.

For most people the heat is pretty challenging in the beginning, not so much for the body, mostly for the mind.

As one of my teachers said: yoga is the practice of finding peace and comfort in an uncomfortable situation. If you can do that for 60 or 90 minutes in a hot and sweaty yoga room, you have something that you can apply wherever you go and whatever you do for the rest of your life.

Mark: Hot yoga provides a much quicker healing, growing and evolving process than any other Hatha yoga practice I have experienced.

What is your favourite benefit of hot yoga?

Zefea: I love how re-energized I always feel after class. In our bumbling life with teacher trainings all over the world, the growing business of evolation yoga and being mom of two young kids, I often feel too tired to get my own practice in.

When I do I immediately feel more centered and balanced, and in a better place to cope with the daily challenges of life. I seem to be more efficient and happier with everything I do. It feels like I sweat out all my obstacles during hot yoga, so that I can become the best version of me.

Mark: I met my wife in a hot yoga teacher training. I now have a beautiful family and a thriving business with evolation yoga. This came directly out of my inspiration I received from practicing and teaching hot yoga. My second favorite thing, it just works!

What suggestions do you have for someone who is new to hot yoga?

Zefea: Hot yoga, popularized by Bikram, is one of the best entryways into yoga. The primary hot series is designed for beginners. The heat and pace of the class can still be intimidating to beginners.

That is why evolation studios offer 60 minute classes with less heat. The experience is a bit less intense so you can take your time to get used to it. Most people find the transition to the Hot 90 minute class easy after that.

When you are ready to begin your journey try out different classes, see which studio suits you and which teacher resonates with you. It is always good to ask questions and share concerns you might have. As a teacher trainer with evolation I know the importance of the personal connection between teacher and students.

Most importantly give it a few times. Very likely you wont really like your first class. But with some determination and patience you will very quickly feel improvement and notice changes in your body. Sometimes already after a few classes. Just give it a try. You will thank yourself!

Mark: Come regularly, be patient and don’t give up!