His students may not think he’s as funny as he thinks he is, but Zahir Akram is one of Surrey’s most popular teachers, offering plain old yoga classes, without the gimmicks, as well as boxing coaching and personal training
What’s the one thing OM readers need to know about you?
I guess I want people to know that although I am a yoga teacher, I am just an ignorant seeker at heart. If I am honest, I’m not sure how I fit into the yoga world. The modern-day yoga culture often leaves me baffled.
I see modern yogis like this…The great Sufi mystic, Mullah Nasruddin, is riding on his donkey sat facing the wrong way. A passer-by comments, “Where are you going?”. “Not now,” replies the Mullah. “I’m busy looking for my donkey.”
The Mullah is so caught up, that he doesn’t realise that he is the traveller, he is the path, and he is the destination. Or perhaps it’s just me on the donkey backwards!
What can students expect in your classes?
You can expect a lot of sarcasm…although my students keep reminding me that I am not as funny as I think I am!
What first inspired you to get into yoga?
Ganesha’s tusk fell on my head whilst I was meditating under a full moon. From then on my chakras blossomed. I was destined to be a yoga guru. From that enlightening moment onwards, I moved into my garden and rejected the seduction of life. Until I missed the football. And the missus. And it was cold, so I moved back in and came to my senses... Just kidding!
In all honesty, there was no real inspiration for getting into yoga. I took up yoga for typical man reasons. I just needed to stretch so I wouldn’t feel so achy and tight all the time. Interestingly, my first yoga teacher was a lovely lady by the name of Jessica Stretch. Real name. So yoga and me, was just meant to be.
What has yoga brought to your life?
Before yoga, I was “movin’ like a tortoise. Full of rigor mortis”…to quote Dr Dre. Yoga has helped me move better which is something I struggled with for years due to my long-term back problem. So at this stage of my life, yoga for me is just a physiological discipline.
I have also evolved as a person so much over the years and can’t even relate to the person I was a few years ago. Perhaps yoga has contributed to that… alongside maturity and just getting old!
How have you navigated the past year of lockdowns?
I was forced to close my studio, so we moved to teaching yoga and personal training online via Zoom, just like the rest of the world. We will open our studio doors again soon,
I hope! I cannot wait to get back and see students in the flesh; so many people are now experiencing Zoom overload.
I’m still studying (osteopathy) so that, alongside spending time with my baby, Zachary, has kept me busy and sane.
Any good life hacks for the rest of us during these strange times?
If you don’t already have a baby, make one. The world looks different through a child’s smile. No books on yoga or sitting for hours in lotus pose can uplift you the way a child can when you hold them in your arms. Having Zachary has saved my sanity. And if you already have children, make the most of them.
Quick Q & A
Favourite yoga book?
Can I say my own book (Yoga - Madness or Meditation?)? Aside from that I would say, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Everything since then (Vivekananda passed in 1902) is a poor man’s interpretation of his work. Vivekananda taught man to embrace the divinity within and seek ‘the path’ for himself.
Favourite yoga quote?
I honestly don’t remember where I read this, but it’s so relevant in today’s Instagram-obsessed culture: “Your whole idea of who you think you should be is taken from people who have no idea who they truly are themselves”.
Go-to health food?
Peanut Butter Carb Killa Protein Bars.
If you had to take a yoga class, as a student, with any teacher ever, from any time or place, who would it be with and why?
My wife, Laura Akram. The woman blows my mind with what she can do. And she is real. I don’t want to be taught yoga by someone acting as a yoga teacher should. I want to be taught by someone genuine. They are few and far between. Plus she’s hotter than a vindaloo!