Meet the author: Zahir Akram
New studio, new book and now a baby on the way - we catch up with the award-winning Surrey yoga instructor Zahir Akram.
It’s been a big year for Surrey yoga teacher Zahir Akram. He’s just opened a new studio n Addlestone, won the Muddy award for best yoga teacher, and now his first book Yoga: Madness or Meditation has been published. We chat with Zahir – who runs Akram Hot Yoga Studios with his wife Laura in Addlestone – about the madness of yoga.
So Zahir? Is yoga madness, or meditation?
Yoga is meditation. Meditation being a consequence rather than a practise. Yoga in itself does bring about a state of meditation. But there is a big difference between what yoga actually is and the yoga you see around the word. The yoga you see online and on Instagram is generally nothing but madness. You have two extremes. Those who think meditation is found in the shape of a ‘guru’ from India and those who act according to what they think are yogic ideals. Both are madness. Gurus have generally been shown to be nothing, but charlatans and students and teachers have shown to be nothing but insecure minions who will dress, eat and behave in a way that is not in their authentic nature, but only goes along with what they think is expected of them as ‘yogis’. So again to reiterate, yoga in itself is Meditation. But the yoga that you likely see around the world, is nothing but madness.
Go on then, tell us more?
I summarise my thoughts at the end of my book.
“The first yogi Shiva gave man no philosophy. This is because as we are, we are pure and flawless. Shiva and the philosophy of Tantra say that we can accomplish all that we wish for. All that is required from us is to be “willing”. Carl Jung has said that, “Our main task is to discover and fulfil our deep, innate potential”. If we participate in yoga and wish for yoga to transform us, first physically and then emotionally, all we are required to have is our Will. Our character, our determination and our heart are all collectively our Will. If we are willing, yoga will lead us to meditation. A destination of physical vitality and emotional tranquillity. If we lose or give up our Will to the so called “guru” or to fit into a yogic ideal, then yoga is nothing more than complete madness”.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
Not for very long. It hasn’t been forever. Maybe eight years. I have always dipped in and out. I got into yoga due to a bad back and got hooked on the practise six years ago.
And what prompted you to write a book about it?
A new student at the studio asked me to recommend a book that could just help her understand yoga a little better. I couldn’t think of a single book that wouldn’t make her feel bad for just being who she is. Most yoga books come from a place of authority that tell us what is expected of us. What we should eat, how we should act etc. Yoga books almost make one feel bad for doing yoga simply because they want to look better. Why is that wrong? The answer is it is not. You can do yoga for any reason you want. Even if it is considered vanity by some.
So I decided to write a book myself that would be based around common sense rather than another book on yoga that regurgitates the same old illogical yoga nonsense over and over again.
There’s no shortage of yoga books out there – what makes yours different?
This book is written from the heart. Sounds odd but most books I have read on yoga are books the writer feel they should write. Very few yoga books, if any, ruffle any feathers. This is perhaps why yoga is so full of nonsensical claims because no one actually stands firm and says; “hang on, there is no science let alone logic that proves any of this”. Like Chakra cleansing. Perhaps the most misleading of all yogic spiel. My hope with this book is simply to empower people to think for themselves. Just because something has the label yoga on it does not mean that we have to accept this to be true.
Will non-yogis find it helpful?
Non-yogis are actually the audience. I want the average Joe to pick top this book and learn a little about the paradoxical world of yoga. From the feedback I have received I have somewhat achieved my goal.
What next for Akram yoga? You’ve recently opened new studios in Addlestone, now the book …
And now a baby. My beautiful wife is expecting and come October, I will be a dad. So although this book is my way of somehow protecting the culture of yoga that I love very much, come October I may have more important things to worry about.
Yoga: Madness or Meditation is available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.