‘Captain’ Khanna finds a higher calling in new career path

Khanna Muren

For nearly 20 years, M. Khanna Muren was flying high – literally.

As a pilot, first with Malaysia Airlines and later Oman Air, Khanna visited many exotic places but found joy in the simplest of things and in helping people.

A fitness enthusiast, Khanna competed in triathlons and other sporting events during his free time. He is also a certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

Little did he know that those two certificates from the International Sports Science Association would come in handy after losing his job due to Covid-19 just over a year ago.

Today, Khanna is attached to Amirs Therapy Gym, working with special needs children.

“I became a personal trainer and nutritionist when I was working in Oman as I had plenty of spare time,” said Khanna, 42.

“It was a hobby but has come in handy in my new job.

“After I was retrenched last year, I helped a friend who is a swimming coach. It was there that I was introduced to Fezia Tyebally, the co-founder of Amirs Therapy Gym.”

Fezia played a big part in helping Khanna find his new path and encouraged him to take up three other courses.

Today, Khanna is a certified Halliwick Instructor, an autism exercise instructor with certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, and has a diploma in learning disorders management and child psychology from the College of Allied Educators Malaysia.

The Halliwick concept is an approach to teaching people, in particular those with physical and/or learning difficulties, to participate in water activities.


As the ‘FunXRcise’ squad leader at the gym, Khanna works with special needs children of various ages.

“FunXRcise stands for fun experiencing relationship with exercise,” explained Khanna.

Khanna Muren
Khanna (centre) helping a child during an exercise routine. Exercises are done in a fun way as children build or experience relationships with those around them.

“But before we get them into the group, I usually do a 21-day one-on-one programme with them.”

This extensive programme has seen Khanna bitten and ‘beaten up’ but it is something he is used. In return, he responds with kindness and empathy, which sometimes catches the children off guard.

“I have worked with special needs children who are in their teens. A few of them are well over six feet (1.8m) tall.

“They can be quite strong and difficult to handle,” said Khanna, as he showed the scars of bite marks on his hands.

“I have had children lash out at me physically but when I show them I’m not angry and say ‘it’s okay’, they don’t know how to react as some of them are so used to people scolding them when they act in a certain way. They get confused when I react differently.

“I’m no saint but I have to be patient and show kindness when I’m dealing with those with special needs.”

Khanna has taken yoga and meditation lessons, which have made him calmer.
The 21-day programme sees Khanna immerse himself into the child’s life for two hours each day.

He starts the day at 7.30am and brings the child out for exercise before eventually giving the child simple household chores.

“Like most young people, they have plenty of energy. Usually, it is spent negatively – lashing out, getting physical and so forth.

“So I get them to expend that energy through exercise.

“I then give them household chores such as vacuuming or cleaning something. That sense of achievement is satisfying for them.”

He said ultimately, the objective is to make the child more functional and sociable.

“The whole family is involved in this programme. I’m only there for two hours. They spend the whole day with the child.

“So, the parents and family members have to be on the same page. I have to show them that I can make a difference and that they too, can help change how their child behaves.”


Khanna said while many consider a pilot’s life glamorous as they get to travel all over the world, he never felt fulfilled.

“I enjoyed my job. Don’t get me wrong. It enabled me to travel and see stuff I had only previously seen on television,” he said.

“It also enabled me to tick some of the items off my bucket list but somehow, something was missing.”

Upon reflection, he realised he wanted something more. After losing his job, he vowed to be more “useful to society” and that started him down his new career path.

Asked if he wants to return to flying, Khanna said: “Initially, that was the plan. But I’m doing more good now and I can see the fruits of my labour.

“I’m changing lives – not just of the special needs children, but also their families.

“I don’t think anything else can bring me such joy,” he added.

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