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vendredi 29 juillet 2011

How Does One Become an Avid Reader

How does one become an avid reader?
When does it start? For most of us, it starts early in life, when you see your parents or grandparents reading or even seeing people discussing matters which you cannot understand. Also being told to read. All children love books but when does that love for books begin to fade away. It has to be an un natural phenomenon.
I used to scout second hand bookstores when I was in school. I remember reading well thumbed copies of Alberto Moravia (who I later learned was Jewish), Erskine Caldwell from the USA about a landscape I had difficulty imagining but it sounded tragically magical and the classic British literature! I also realized that looking at the heaps of books at the various second hand bookstores that one could never read every book in print, but also recognized that if you had friends who read, then you could cultivate an expanding sense of reading. To this day I have friends who recommend books for me to read. One such person is Steve Avery, from an extremely intellectually poor city of Sioux City in Iowa in the USA. As Pablo has repeatedly wrote in his poems: it is amazing to see the life trying to form in the wreckage….
Now so much information is available on the net, but as Eli Parisier has recently warned in his book, the information provided for you is not what you want to know, but what the four majors want you to know: FaceBook, Google, YouTube and the filtered news at Yahoo. After listening to Parisier on TED talks, I try to get my news from the original websites of media I have always liked: The New York Times, BBC etc. The chances of avoiding news that is selected for you is slim these days but there are obscure places where you find diamonds!
The great metaphor is the aviation industry and the three giants of International Aviation: Etihad, Emirates and Qatar, they fly to places where you want to go. Air France and United Airlines my favoured airlines fly to where they can make a profit..
Mun Ching my friend in KL and now a Classical Yoga teacher, had been reading The Economist faithfully ever since she was introduced to it in New York. I have been reading The Economist from my school days in Australia. She was an erudite reader in that she had her English Dictionary by her side when she read The Economist and marked and studied the words which were new to her. After we met in 2008, I requested that she send me on a regular basis articles that she thinks are interesting. Since there each day there are articles on an incredible varieties of subjects, appearing at my mail box from The Economist via Mun Ching. During the course of helping a certain Embassy scour news items of interest in South East Asia, she made a great discovery, the existence of a newspaper, The Brunei Times published in BSB, Brunei. You would expect it to be a provincial conservative newspaper of no great interest reflecting the strict Islamic philosophy of the rulers, but you are in for a surprise. It is one of the best newspapers in Asia to be had on Internet, free of charge. Obviously the Sultan (one of the only two reigning sultans in this world) had chosen the best (like the Sheikh of Dubai chooses the best for Emirates) and each day they publish information from around the world. Al Jazeera makes documentaries about subjects which the western media find non profitable, likewise, The Brunei Times publishes articles for their own sake, to spread the knowledge around the world, among its readers.

The Destruction of Languages and Cultures.. our role in it

My friend MunChing who looks through The Brunei Times daily and selects articles for me (and other friends of hers) and emails them. I truly appreciate this effort of hers. This morning she sent me an article about the impending disappearance of some of the languages of Indonesian province of Papua.

For an anthropologist it is a continuing sad saga of Indigenous peoples and here is my reply to her.

Dear MunChing
To destroy a Culture, you only have to destroy the Language.Landa in Mexico in 1520 recognized that and burnt the entire Library of the Mayans, but not before recording all their customs and nuances of the language. Mayans of Yucatan today have no memory of their ancestral culture of such magnitude.
It was at first the European conquerers, The British were the worst because they imposed strict religious forced conversions. The greatest of indigenous language losses have been in the two continents conquered by the British: USA and Australia. Currently in the USA, many of the languages of the indigenous people are on the verge of disappearance.
To give the Spaniards and Portugese their due, they imposed religious conversions but were tolerant of their indigenous practices. That is why in Central America and Brasil and also in the former spanish colonies of south america notably in Peru and Bolivia, the culture and the language has survived well. It was not the Portuguese conquerors that did the most damage to Os Indios do Brasil but the latter day adventurers looking for land and gold. 
When I was studying Anthropology, I also was under the impression that Racism, cultural genocide were exclusively Western Domains, until I visited the !Jung/?Wasi in the Kalahari. For them the threat to their culture (including virtual enslavement of the women) came not from the Europeans but Black  Ovambos and especially the Herreros, who introduced Alcohol to them.
Now as you can see in the article, Indonesians are also not averse to treating the Indigenous people in a very similar fashion to those of the Western Colonialists. The western part of Papua/New Guinea is not Indonesian in culture or context but was annexed by Soekarno when the Dutch left. Travel to this area is not easy, except to the capital city of Jayapura (the old soekarnopura, before then Kota Baru and ancient founding name of Hollandia). But let us get in touch with the anthropologist at the local university which would make traveling into the interior easy enough. 
I have always wondered why the arriving populations have been so inimical to the indigenous populations, even from a historical point of view. India, a country all of you know very well, has an indigenous population of Millions, the largest of whom are the Gonda of Orissa but they are scattered all over the centre of the country. If you are interested in the attitude of ordinary Indians towards Adivasi or the Original People you can read a travelogue of that great master Norman Lewis through Orissa, The Godess in Stone.  My own visit to the Malayan/Kada adivasis of Kerala is documented in :
My friends in Cochin could never understand why a foreigner would be interested in the Adivasi since they themselves, including the educated ones had no knowledge of them nor any interest in them.
I would be very much interested in hearing why Outsiders have this  dislike for the Indigenous peoples. When they are on the verge of extinction or when their culture is destroyed there is an increased New Age interest in them .(such as Shamanism, Sweat Lodge or Indian communal dancing)

Good Morning to all of you in Quiberon and have a lovely weekend.

Winnebago Pow Wow Day 1 28 July 2011

samedi 23 juillet 2011



There are many intimidating judges that one may face on a cooking show (the fiery Gordon Ramsay definitely comes to mind), but none could compare to a recent surprise guest on last Monday's Australian edition of "Master Chef": the Dalai Lama!
The contestants and audience were all stunned when none other than the Dalai Lama himself suddenly appeared as a surprise guest judge for the July 18th show.
Luckily for the contestants their karma all stayed intact, as the Lama was very kind in his comments about the dishes. According to Reuters, he opined that, "As a Buddhist monk, it is not right to prefer this food or that food." The harshest critique levied was towards a contestant who served undercooked gnocchi, whom he said "tried their best." If only everyone could be so forgiving (especially of undercooked gnocchi).

This is the third lesson I learned and put into practice after my 7 day Yoga Immersion with Mun Ching. When we were discussing about my travels in South East Asia: I said, I love Myanmar and I hate Singapour. She gently commented that having strong dislikes over certain things such as food or country is another structural defect of the Mind which will affect our balance state of mind and restrict our thinking and growth. Strong dislike is also known as Aversion.

Aversion is that which dwells upon pain. — yoga sutra 2: 8
The man whom desires enter as rivers flow into the sea, filled yet always unmoving — that man finds lasting peace. — Bhagavad Gita

Pleasure and pain are part of life. We humans seek pleasure and avoid pain in the pursuit of happiness. But ironically, when we cling to pleasure or even cling to the aversion of pain, it instead brings suffering and loss of happiness.

My dislike for Singapour and its society has only brought further pain to me and has made me behaved in a fashion which is not in keeping with me, it had fed into my ego, such as saying, when I met some one from Singapour, “ Sorry, I am sorry you cant find a better place to live”.

Mun Ching asked, what is that you hate about Singapour? I realized that the usual answers were hollow in the context of a discussion about Yoga Sutra. As attachment to tasty foods lead to mindless eating, even an attachment to an aversion, can create pain within yourself. It is better to get rid of the pain by taking care of the aversion to the object.

How all the old philosophies have so much in common, the above statement by Dalai Lama, to reassert that judging is against the behavior of a monk, is in keeping with aversion and attachment. It is also well in keeping with the Native American Indian Philosophy that judging others is a learned behaviour and that Europeans are taught to judge others from an early age
By Judging something, you are strengthening your kleisha of Aversion which feeds into your Ego and disturbs your balance. Always try to control your Kleishas..
I knew that I had to abandon jamaican society even though life was very pleasant. Pleasant Life does not lead to happiness (more meaningful life would).
The Native Nurse assigned to me warned me " Learn not to be judgmental, do not judge Indians, the man sitting in front of you at the Consulting room, may be wearing an old pair of jeans and a tee shirt, but he could be the leader of the Eagle Clan with a fund of knowledge which you as a doctor will never manage to accumulate! ". So with one stroke, she taught me about judgment and also about humility.

Isn't it nice to have your best friend in Asia, as your latest teacher?

vendredi 22 juillet 2011



Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Singapore to Tokyo. Tokyo to London. London to Paris. Paris to Miami. Miami to The Indians, back to Miami. Miami to London. London to Paris. Paris to Brussels to Paris. Paris to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
I left on May 11th and was back on June 28th.
It is always Friends, Food, and The Far East.

mardi 19 juillet 2011


Do not use Yoga Practice as a short cut to become “Happy”. Practicing yoga to reach a state of happiness/ bliss is an arduous process. Yoga is not just about doing body postures, breathing or meditation alone.
In the desperate search for happiness, many try various ways among others doing Yoga as an exercise, practicing Meditation, dabbling in Chakra Alignment or healing with Crystal Therapy. Many of them are looking for a quick answer to their life-long problems and confusions.
Growth is renewing ourselves over time, and not an accumulation of various ways (techniques) to reach happiness. There is no shortcut; weekend attempts to learn Spirituality (retreats) would fail to attain the results they seek.
I know a good friend of mine, with emotional trauma stretching years into her past, who would try anything to find a quick fix, but she is no better off afterwards. It is almost like those who seek almond kernel cure for cancer, instead of going through the process of healing with suffering through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.( at least that is what our knowledge in the West permits us to seek).
To know WHO you are is a journey, in this world where you are measured by WHAT you are or what your success is measured by what you are.
It is a common misconception that Physical exercise or exertion can improve your spirituality.( in this category falls the Practice of Yoga by most westerners). Physical exercise (extreme sports or power yoga) is geared towards competitive spirit, the very same thought processes that you need to leave behind in your search for spirituality.
In Yoga sutra of Patanjali, the codification of Classical Yoga ( more than 2000 years old) there are only 2 verses out of the 195 aphorisms (sutras) dedicated to Asanas or Postures. They are explained below:
Third rung of the Eight Fold Path is Asana: The third of the eight rungs (2.29) of Yoga is Asana, or postures.
Two essential characteristics of postures: Yoga has been defined as the mastery of the thought patterns of mind field (1.2), so that Self-realization can be experienced (1.3). To be able to do the meditation practices that allow this, it is essential that the postures be (2.46):
• Steady, and
• Comfortable
Techniques, including the practice of Yoga as an exercise alone would be ineffective if your goal is growth in your spirituality.
Classical Yoga with its eight fold path will help in increasing / transforming our understanding of ourselves in the world in which we live in.
This world and us, work and family included, would see better mutual relationships. Self-improvement is not incongruous with increase in a productive life at work and a more congenial life with the family.
Many techniques, including psychological counseling, will help in overcoming the melodramas of the moment but certain Yoga philosophies will help not only the big dramas but also the nuances of smaller dramas in your life.
(The first result I noticed after one week of Classical Yoga Philosophy, done with Mun Ching, a recent graduate of the Yoga Institute, was that the Time Urgency was gone because of a better time management, which occurred spontaneously). Apart from the melodramas evident to every one else in our life, Classical Yoga allows us to see and address the melodramas which are taking place purely in our mind. (reminds me very much what Meher Baba said: Only you know what roles you are playing.)
I am trying to practice the following yoga sutras 2:33 and 2:34
If troubled by perverse thoughts, there should be habituation to the contrary (feelings).

Since the perverted thoughts like violence, whether done, caused to be done, or approved, whether proceeded by greed, anger or ignorance, whether mild, moderate or strong, find their unending consequences in pain and lack of knowledge, there should therefore be a cultivation of contrary feelings.
(Trying to apply to even simple interactions with people, directly or in my thought)

So we can choose, either using Yoga Practice as a form of Exercise with a fringe benefit of relaxation or delving deeply into its philosophy and let it change our way of thinking and living. (“lifestyle”).
I am very grateful for the time spent at MeherYoga Lifestyle Coaching in KL, Malaysia with its founder, Mun Ching Yong.

samedi 16 juillet 2011


Frequent Fliers, Obesity and Heart Disease
Gone are the days when flying around the world was a glamorous affair, when flying to distant locale itself had an exciting connotation. Nowadays most of the “jet setters” are middle-level managers of corporate world, lugging their luggages and computers, often deprived of the luxuries afforded to the senior managers who sit upfront in the aircraft and enjoy good wines and a nice dinner winging their way to their destinations.
A recent study published article on the increased prevalence of obesity and heart attacks among the frequent flying jetsetters has caught some attention. Any one spending time at airports in North America or Europe will confess to the stress experienced while transiting through them. Not all airports are modeled after Changi in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur International airport where there are some provisions made for wary travellers.
The airports I frequent in North America are Houston, Newark and Miami; these are major hubs for air transport. The quality of food available at three of these mega airports are slightly worse than the quality available in the streets of these respective cities, that itself is not saying very much.
All three are crowded with comfortable seating while waiting for your flight, especially before you go through security clearance, is hard to come by.
On this context, one can understand why frequent fliers become obese and often suffer from heart attacks from their flying-related cardiac diseases.
They are most often seen rushing from point to point, as mentioned they are at the mercy of the bad food at the airports. There is the stress of boarding and flight delays. The hotels near the airports are what convenience stores are to supermarkets, just a place to lay down for a few hours to wait for the next connection. All these do add up to the stress, in addition to the stress of being a corporate middle- manager, which itself is dangerous to your health.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot who had conducted the mammoth Whitehall study about British Civil Servants, says:
So I spent quite a lot of time looking at it in the first Whitehall study, and the remarkable finding, which ran counter both to my expectations at the time, and I think most other people's, was firstly, just looking at heart disease, it was not the case that people in high stress jobs had a higher risk of heart attack, rather it went exactly the other way: people at the bottom of the hierarchy had a higher risk of heart attacks. Secondly, it was a social gradient. The lower you were in the hierarchy, the higher the risk.
Initially they thought the British civil servants a peculiar breed, but it extended not only to the rest of Britain but also countries such as Australia, New Zealand and some European countries. In a follow up study, Whitehall II, the earlier studies were confirmed and also the so called intangibles were identified as the important ingredients. We always look for tangible causes of disease: smoking, obesity, sedentary occupation, cholesterol but this study shows the importance of the mind-body connection when it comes to the reality of modern life.
Sir Michael:
So then the question is, what is it about position in the hierarchy that determines different rates of disease? And given that, the hierarchy in disease does change. All societies may have hierarchies, but we know that the social gradient in disease is not fixed. It's bigger in some places than others, and it can change over time. That could be because the magnitude of the hierarchies change, but there's always hierarchies. But, more importantly, it suggests what is it about where you are in the hierarchy that's related to disease, and can we do something about that? So you ask, is it money? Is it prestige, self-esteem? And, in fact, what I think is, it is has much more to do with how much control you have over life circumstances, and the degree to which you're able to participate fully in society; what Amartya Sen calls capabilities.

Human values, but in the end -- I'm a British empiricist, so human values, I think, are absolutely crucial here. But I'm also interested in empirical demonstration of how they translate into pathology, because in the end people go and get sick, and a value sounds like something rather abstract -- that it's the mind, where, in fact, what happens in the mind has a crucial impact on what happens in the rest of the body. The mind is part of our biological makeup as well. So the empirical study is how the sets of values translate into people's perception of reality, and that, in turn, changes physiology and leads to risk of disease. So we're trying to deal in a crude way with a mind/body question of how the one translates into the other.

For those of us, who have been interested in this mind body interface in our clinical practice, these words of Sir Michael are reassuring indeed.
And find a way to understand the stressed Frequent Flier and how to offer a solution to their distress.
I am a frequent flier (in the first six months of this year, two trips to Asia, five trips to the USA, from France among others) and I have found that taking care of your mind is very important while offering the body a bit of refuge as well.
Be loyal to one airline and they would be loyal to you with upgrades and offers of Business Class seats at economy prices or for free. Also when there is a delay in the flight or cancellation, the elite frequent fliers are attended to first.
Always be a member of the Club belonging to your favourite airline so that you have a refuge at busy airports, with free Internet, beverages and some clubs, reasonable repasts. Outside USA, such as ANA lounge in Tokyo or Virgin Atlantic lounge in London, the lounges are bistros, offer massages and haircuts and an array of drinks and other conveniences.

Relaxation is the key.

Recently I flew, Kuala Lumpur to Miami with stops in Bangkok, Tokyo and Houston. I thought about my trip the day before and deliberately had a slow day. Also made sure that I had a good sleep before boarding the flight since I was to spend the next two nights on planes. Continental Airlines as a reward for my being a loyal customer organized the entire flight, in Business Class.

Another thing which is important to me is the presence of a friend at the airport when you arrive after a very long intercontinental flight. Miami to Kuala Lumpur with stops in Frankfurt and Bangkok can be tedious, if you want to think that way, but the smiling face of my best friend in Asia waiting for me at KLIA and even the very thought of it was soothing.
Bon Voyage!

vendredi 15 juillet 2011


Exposure To BPA, Phthalates May Affect Thyroid Function.
HealthDay (7/14, Dallas) reported, "Chemicals called phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) that are found in solvents, plastics and numerous household products may alter levels of thyroid hormones in the body," according to a study published online July 11 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. After comparing "thyroid levels and traces of phthalates and BPA in urine samples of 1,346 adults and 329 teenagers," researchers found that "the greater the exposure to phthalates and BPA, the lower the thyroid hormone levels."

This is dated July 14, 2011.

Here in our Endocrine Clinic, in this isolated village of Indians, we have been worried about it since 2004 and in all the conferences I have given since then I have included the effects of Chemicals on Thyroid Function, Precocious Puberty and even Type 2 Diabetes.


In a matter of months, three women colleagues at a small clinic were diagnosed as Hypothyroid and sought my advice about the dosage they were being given by their doctor. They were only on small dosages of the thyroid hormone as replacement, 50 micrograms.
This made me think of two things. First of all, three women in a small clinic are more than coincidental, plus all three are living in areas that were farmland before and now form housing estates or new houses.
Secondly, the normal dosage for replacement is nowhere as low as 50 micrograms and that dosage I would reserve for someone who has got concomitant heart disease.
The true teacher was the young woman, in her late twenties, mother of two young children and a health care worker. She had moved into a new house with her husband and children and had begun noticing a change in the behaviour of her older child, a boy. He had become increasingly withdrawn and lethargic. She was very concerned but luckily she did not consult a psychologist or even her family physician for fear of her son being mislabeled with something or other. She began a little bit of detective work, Sherlock Holmes type, the kind we were taught as medical students in London. Environmental contamination seemed a good enough suspect, her house being on a land that was until recently a farmland. She decided to check on the water she was using, from the water supply, and to her consternation she found out that the water supply was from an independent well! She immediately stopped the use of her tap water for drinking purposes and she substituted bottle water instead. In the ensuing months, her son recovered his previous energy and within six months he was back to his old self. Feeling fatigued and with less energy, she consulted her general PR actioner, who diagnosed Hypothyroidism in her, and started her on 50 micrograms of synthroid on which she felt much better.
When she consulted me on this, I felt that she was giving me the answers already; whatever contaminated her young son’s body had contaminated her as well. Water from the well contained something that blocked the functioning of her thyroid gland, and being an Endocrinologist, perchlorate came to mind. But at this time, the year would have been 2004 or 5, there was no mention of perchlorate in the environment in the “medical” literature, even though retrospectively there were lots of information on the web about perchlorate seeping into the water supply of the USA.

As an Endocrinologist, one cannot blindly accept the fact that the thyroid dysfunction has blossomed in the USA. And five years later the learned societies are beginning to accept it.

It is best to keep your home as free of Plastics as possible, plastics of all forms.

The idea to look into Plastics as a source of Endocrine dysfunction was stimulated by a small booklet I bought in Johor Bahru in 2004 by a diligent outfit from Penang Called Consumer Association of Penang. The booklet was titled: The Toxicity of Plastics
They were much ahead of the times!

vendredi 8 juillet 2011



Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Singapore to Tokyo. Tokyo to London. London to Paris. Paris to Miami. Miami to The Indians, back to Miami. Miami to London. London to Paris. Paris to Brussels to Paris. Paris to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
I left on May 11th and was back on June 28th.
It is always Friends, Food, The Far East.
There are some very good quality friends here in KL but the main draw without doubt is my best friend, MC. Every person deserves and should have a friend of the caliber of MC, at least a similar relationship whereby so much of emotions, hopes, aspirations, learning and knowledge are shared and not to mention Food.
We are lucky to have her sister ML, who has excellent taste in Chinese food. I shall write down a list of restaurants and their food. More importantly, it is the time afforded for chats and discussions.
This is of course something new for us. Yoga in its classical form arrived with a teacher from Bombay VY in February 2010. MC went to India and she has become an excellent teacher, able to precisely impart the philosophy behind Classical/ Raja Yoga. I have not learned many Postures but have been able to integrate Yoga Philosophy into my lifestyle. For those of you who think that Yoga consists of competitive sweating with many others in the same room, Classical Yoga enables you to cleanse your mind of deep problems. It is difficult to explain how to use the various aspects of Yoga to cleanse your personality complex but it does help to have a teacher like MC. Even my friends in France commented that they had noticed a change in me which they couldn't pin point. I have felt much calmer within myself and was not unnecessarily getting upset at small and silly things, especially during the many flights and travels.
There have been other intangible benefits. My cholesterol levels had gone down, especially the Bad one. There has been an improvement in my hydration.
There has not been any great change in my nutrition since I eat French food when I am in France and always try to make sure that I eat as close to good quality as available in the country. No great fan of Fast Food or Soft Drinks. In France, an average meal consists of many courses, including a glass of wine or two, cheese, baguette fresh from the bakery and predominantly fish based dishes and vegetables. On this occasion I was twice in London and it is probably the best place to eat the so called “Indian” food, as defined by the Colonial Masters, such as Chicken Karahi, Rogan Josh etc. It is interesting to note that the majority of the “Indian” restaurants in England are owned by Bangladeshis and in particular from the district of Silhet. An excellent Indian meal at Emperor of India at Maidenhead….. and of course London is London.. a Friend was visiting Paris from Miami so it was nice to show her the beauty of the French capital and also invite her to a good Moroccan Couscous..
Many of our diseases are caused by dysfunction and imbalance between our mind and the body, and many a times, dictated by the mind. Peace of mind, eating with friends and laughter are far more important than calories and the contents, of course always leave room in your stomach so that it can lazily inform the brain that it has had enough.
A glass of wine with your meals, especially if you can get hold of an Argentine Malbec or a south African Pinotage and any of the good varietals from Australia, is good, definitely for your heart. France has an immense variety of wines, varietals and vineyards so that one can only hope to skimp the surface. But it is nice to carry a short list of wines you wish to drink in your pocket in case you happen to pass a vinotheque!
I am at the Thai Golden Lounge at KLIA, my friend left me, for the fifteenth time, yet another contended departure from Malaysia which has become a home away from home for me. I am sure I will be back soon..

I left Malaysia nearly 40 hours ago and still have not reached my destination yet but I enjoyed NH flight BKK to NRT and the CO flight NRT to IAH, both served excellent Japanese food. was able to watch The Counterfeiters a german film about the jewish prisoners who were treated well under the threat of death trying to forge money for the Nazis, and the other movie was the last Almodavar one Besos Rotos the Broken Kisses....

mardi 5 juillet 2011


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 Food Paradise.
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”.

July 2009. Here she is seen at the annual Pow wow of the Hocank Indians of Nebraska, USA

Here is the same lady, in January 2011 at the beginning of her course at the Yoga Institute.
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”.
Mun Ching in KL June 2011

Doctor and the Yoga Teacher, Kuala Lumpur June 2011

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)

vendredi 1 juillet 2011


My brother, like many good jewish men, sells shmatta but the quality of goods he sells, I cant afford to buy! so I am always happy when he gives me a few shirts.. Today I needed one as I was invited to lunch by a good friend who is returning to Cuba after his official duties here. Will miss him! but the blow was softened by nice lamb mussaman curry and genial conversation as well as the good company of my best friend. The view from the 28th floor of G Hotel was superb and one appreciates how green actually KL is. At the ground level, KL looks like a concrete jungle but the view from above tells another story.
It is Friday night, time to light candles and also to wish all my dear friends in the US of A (despite their governments irrational policies towards Cuba) a happy weekend celebrating the Independence.
For those of you who may not be aware, Cuban government educates free of charge close to 18 000 students from all parts of the world to become Doctors and return to their countries to provide health care. this year another five would be leaving for Cuba from Malaysia. There are students from TimorL'este and Bhutan studying Medicine and Cuba also provides medical assistance to Pakistan and Indonesia. I am so proud of this contribution to International Health of this poor country, just 90 miles south of USA.. It is a good lesson for the future of the world, even if you have little,you can afford to give away a little bit of that little..

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