I met Mun Ching in a yoga center last year during a spiritual sojourn to India. The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala attracts both the yoga-curious and advanced practitioners from all around the world. They teach a beautiful combination of Jnana, Karma, Bhakti and Raja yogas, all to the backdrop of a lush tropical paradise.
We happened to decide to travel to Mysore at nearly the same moment, and made arrangements to make the journey together. Her quirky charm, understated wisdom and cheeky smile made for a most excellent adventure together.
As we bus-ed through the jungles of the south, rocking and rollin’ at a rather slow pace, we got to know each other more deeply. The connections kept popping up, the love of yoga, the Yoga Institute (where I’d just done some continuing eduction as a teacher), Surinder Singh, travel, interest in indigenous peoples, Asian family stuff, the black sheep syndrome, and, as a cherry on top, a great love for tasty edibles!
Mun Ching introduced me to Dr. Sudah Yehuda Kovesh Shaheb who wrote the blog about Mun Ching and her transformational experience with yoga below. (I’ll also be visiting with Sudah this summer to experience a pow wow and collaborate on a yoga-diabetes program for his patients. I hope to bring the program back to Hawaii one day!)
This blog is so special to me, not only because it’s a first hand personal account of how brilliant a yogic lifestyle is for one’s health, but it’s also a beautiful reminder of how, if you’re open to it, the Universe can provide you with such enriching relationships, at times when you’d least expect it!
I am here in KL, visiting my best friend who is also introducing me to the Philosophy and Techniques of Classical (“Raja”) Yoga and guiding me through a 7 day course of Yogic Lifestyle. She is a recent Graduate of Yoga Institute of Santa Cruz, Mumbai; the oldest organized Yoga Institution in the world (since 1918).
We met on a flight to Siem Reap in January 2008 and at that time you could say that she was quite representative of her people from Malaysia: Ambitious, hard working, a CPA and a traveller. As a Doctor and an Anthropologist, I also noticed that she was under considerable stress, was overweight, had an unhealthy lifestyle.
She was gently introduced to Classical Yoga by Vandana Yadav, a teacher from Bombay in February of 2010. Since then there has been a true revolution in her lifestyle and the worldview of hers; and incredible improvements in her mental, emotional and physical health.
I decided to discuss this matter with her, so that many hard working, stressed individuals in this world could gain some sort of guidance from her own victorious journey from Ill Health to Wellness, in a short period of time.
She has changed the way she eats, her activity patterns, incorporating Yoga techniques and uses Yoga philosophy in her every day life.
I have her medical records from 2009 and 2011, so I am able to offer you a medical perspective. In less than two years, she has lost 30 pounds or about 13 kg.
Her Total Cholesterol has come down 14 per cent, her bad cholesterol, LDL, has decreased by 25 per cent, her good cholesterol has improved by 11 per cent. Her Fasting blood sugar was bordering on Pre Diabetes stage and in June 2011, her fasting blood sugar was 77 mg/dl.
Her Family Physician had wanted to start her on Anti-Cholesterol medication, Statins, but she had declined that. Most doctors are not going to believe that patients are capable of reducing their cholesterol on their own, even if the patients know that high LDL cholesterol, the bad one is associated with a higher risk of Heart Attack and Heart Failure.
I asked her to tell me the changes she has made in her life in the last few months.
The earliest change was to consciously drink water. Starting with 1 liter of water in the morning, and another 2 liters of water during the course of the day. She has noticed that the bowel problems she suffered for most of her life disappeared.
In October 2010, she went to India and did 2 days of Yoga camp for Sinus Inflictions at the Yoga Institute and then returned to India in January 2011 to do a 3 months of intensive teacher training course. Since her return to Malaysia in May 2011, she has faithfully done Yoga. Before she went to India, she had gone to Yoga studios in Kuala Lumpur two to three times a week but her weight was fluctuating. She was not able to practice yoga on her own until she attended the Yoga Institute. This may have to do with the type of Yoga, Raja Yoga at the Institute versus Hatha, Power, Ivengar and Ashtanga Yoga at other places.
Malaysia is a paradise for food lovers and it is easy to obtain tasty food. Many people eat at least one meal a day outside the house and many more eat two meals outside the house.
She had reduced this habit of eating out twice a day to once a day, since she became aware of the ingredients used in cooking. Palm oil is used a fair bit and some of the dishes are fried and refried in the same oil. In Malaysia one can eat healthily but one has to be careful since the advent of an array of fast food restaurants, from overseas and locally conjured.
This morning we went to a neighbourhood Café the kind that dots the landscape of Kuala Lumpur. Both of us had Noodle soup, with fish and egg and local vegetables. The cost for two bowls of noodle soup amounted to slightly above 1 Euro! If we had ordered Char Kuoy Tiew, a very popular Malaysian dish, we would have gotten fried noodles, fried in used palm oil, and the Chinese cook may add the fat of the pork (high cholesterol) to give it an enhanced taste. So choosing the right dish, at slow or fast food places is important even in this
Mun Ching the Nutritionist:
She has reduced eating Bread, from two slices per day to around two slices of white bread per week (Note: the quality of the bread from bakery is not that good in KL). She also eats less Rice (from one bowl at a meal to half a bowl. In the morning, the breakfast usually is Yoghurt, banana, Raisins, Walnuts, Cereals and Ground Nuts. A cup of Tea made Indian style with milk and two teaspoons of brown sugar.
At Lunch, half a bowl of rice, fish or chicken. Twice a week she may eat Pork. Various vegetables available locally are consumed.
Snacks are mainly Fresh Fruits, available according to the season here in Malaysia. At around 4 pm, a cup of Tea as described above.
One dramatic change has been the elimination of Processed and Stale Food. Of course, drinking fizzy sugar loaded drinks had not been her forte.
During the three-month education course in Bombay, she ate predominantly vegetarian food.
Mun Ching, the yoga practitioner:
The practice of Asanas (postures) are simplified for householders (as compared to challenging yoga she had done before ) that she was initially dubious about the effects of Yoga on her body and mind. This is a common misconception both in the East and the West, that Yoga consists of difficult and sometimes painful postures only few people can attain. Power, achievement and competitiveness are all built into the mass Yoga classes, which are attended by many students at any one time. The Raja Yoga advises to do Yoga at home, and preferably alone.
Currently Mun Ching’s Asana and breathing practice consists of
Breathing (Pranayama) 15 minutes
Asanas (postures) 45 minutes
Relaxation Therapy consisting of Shavasana (Corpse Pose), done twice a day whereby she consciously relax the mind and rejecting any thoughts from entering her mind.
Job: She left the corporate world in May 2010 and went on a spiritual tour of India to discover her next calling in life. She discovered Yoga in October 2010 and in May 2011, she started her social venture called “Meher Yoga Lifestyle Coaching”.
photo taken at an exhibition of Cuban painters in Malaysia.
Parameter 5/2009 10/10 6/2011 %change
I II III I-II II-III
Total Chol. 216 172 148 20 14
LDL 143 114 87 20 24
HDL 54 46 51 -15 +11
TG 105 58 52 45 10
Non HDL C 162 126 97 22 30
Total Chol means Total cholesterol
LDL Low Density Cholesterol is considered the Bad one
HDL High Density Cholesterol is considered the Good one
TG Triglycerides, a fat, reflects also the Insulin Resistance in the body
Non HDL cholesterol a predictor of risk for heart disease
Lipid and lipoprotein levels: optimal levels and lifestyle Recommendations of American Heart Association 2011
The following levels of lipids and lipoproteins in women should be encouraged through lifestyle approaches:
LDL- C 100 mg/dL,
HDL – C 50 mg/dL,
Triglycerides 150 mg/dL,
Non–HDL-C (total cholesterol minus HDL) 130 mg/dL
No wonder the local FP/GP wanted to put her on Statin medications for high cholesterol. Look at her reading, when she was pre diabetic with a weight of 69 kg (BMI 27kg/m2, 28 is defined as Obesity in Asians) and a high normal Fasting blood sugar.
Now thanks to her lifestyle changes aided by Classical Yoga practices, her risk for Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease has vanished completely.
Her Blood Pressure is usually around 95/65 mmHg.
Currently she is truly a picture of Health and I am glad to be learning Raja Yoga Philosophy and practices of Asanas and Breathing/Pranayama from her.
I plan to take what I have learned from Mun Ching to the groups of American Indians that I work with, so that those oppressed people can get non drug relief from the diseases of “western civilization”.
The world looks with some awe upon a man who appears unconcernedly indifferent to home, money, comfort, rank, or even power and fame. The world feels not without a certain apprehension, that here is someone outside its jurisdiction; someone before whom its allurements may be spread in vain; someone strangely enfranchised, untamed, untrammelled by convention, moving independent of the ordinary currents of human action. -Winston Churchill, politician and statesman (1874-1965)