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I Am Healthy
by Alanna Zabel


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Mantra: I Am Healthy
Exercise:  Sun Salutation / Hydration

Today we are going to work with the relationship of two essential elements:  Fire and Water. Water is a high priority for attaining optimum health. Your body is over 70% water. Your brain is over 85% water. Adequate hydration is not only essential for optimum brain function, it also:

* Maintains your body temperature
* Aids in digestion
* Metabolizes fat 
* Lubricates and cushions your organs 
* Transports nutrients throughout your body 
* Flushes toxic waste from your body
* Keeps you looking and feeling young
* Counteracts the effects of coffee, alcohol and stress

The Sun Salutations that we are going to practice create internal heat. Heat dissolves water, so if we are going to add the element of fire to the body, we must also keep our water reserves full. Please drink one full glass of water BEFORE the Sun Salutations exercise AND one full glass of water AFTER.

While its name might evoke images of some ancient ritual, the reality is that the Sun Salutation is simply a seemingly repetitive and mundane sequence of yoga postures that can bestow some rather extra-ordinary health benefits. It is mostly comprised of forward and backward bending movements, often with some lunges to balance out the routine. The potential benefits of the Sun Salutation are impressive; they include increased flexibility to the hamstrings, enhanced upper body strength, lower back strength and mobility, and improved flexibility in the chest and shoulder muscle groups. In addition, since this sequence links several different movements together (with one breath per movement), you are actually increasing energy flow and improving your cardiovascular system.

Of course, as with any form of intense exercise, the Sun Salutation should be approached with a certain amount of caution. For starters, it is recommended that you have some basic yoga experience before you attempt the Sun Salutations. If you have lower back issues, such as a herniated disc, or any other health concerns please check with their doctor to make sure that you can practice the Sun Salutations safely. Please avoid any posture or movement that causes any kind of pain or discomfort. All movements can be modified - find what works best for you.

The exact sequence differs slightly from one style and teacher to the next, but the postures and basic benefits can be roughly summed up into the following list:


* Standing Neutral Posture (reinforces the postural muscles and promotes a healthy low back)
* Full Overhead Reach (promotes a full body stretch, while further strengthening the postural muscles)
* Bent-Knee Forward Bend (promotes increased flexibility in the hamstrings)
* Flat Back Position (strengthens the back muscles, the abdominal muscles, as well as forming excellent posture awareness)
* Plank (strengthens the upper body, abdomen, and lower back muscles)
* Lowered Plank (strengthens the abdomen and low back, upper back, shoulders, and most especially the triceps)
* Cobra (promotes increased lower back strength, and spinal flexibility) OR Upward Facing Dog (promotes increased lower back strength and strengthens the arms, chest and shoulders)
* Downward Facing Dog (stretches the hamstrings, increases upper body strength, promotes increased flexibility to the chest, inner arms and middle back)
* Flat Back Position (strengthens the back muscles, the abdominal muscles, as well as forming excellent posture awareness)
* Bent-Knee Forward Bend (promotes increased flexibility in the hamstrings)
* Full Overhead Reach (promotes a full body stretch, while further strengthening the postural muscles)
* Standing Neutral Posture (reinforces the postural muscles and promotes a healthy low back)

Start in Standing Neutral Posture. Lift your chest as tall as possible, roll your shoulders back, and draw your abdomen in towards your spine. These combined actions will create a solid foundation for good posture. Close your eyes. Begin breathing in and out of your nose (preferably) unless it is more comfortable breathing in and out of your mouth; that is fine as well. Repeat in your mind, "I Am Healthy". Feel healthy.  Feel your body open and active. Feel the water hydrating your cells.

1. Inhale, extend your arms up over your head. Reach as high as possible, feeling a full body stretch. 

2. Exhale while you bend your knees slightly and fold at your waist. Please keep your abdomen engaged for this exercise, in order to protect your back while it is in a vulnerable position. 

3. Place your hands onto the front of your shins. Inhale, straighten your arms while pushing your chest away from your legs and flattening your back. Exhale, fold at the waist again.

4. Inhale, step back into a plank position.  Your shoulders should be over your wrists.  If plank is too much weight bearing, please modify by bringing your knees to the floor while keeping your shoulders over the wrists.

5. Exhale while lowering your plank to the floor. Please bring your elbows in towards your waist, so as not to overstretch your rotator cuff muscle group.

6. Inhale, roll your shoulders back, opening your chest. Lift your chest into a Cobra or an Upward Facing Dog pose. In Cobra, your hips stay on the floor. In Upward Facing Dog, your hips lift up off of the floor by using your upper body strength.

7. Exhale, push back into a Downward Facing Dog pose.  Press your heels towards the floor. Hold this position for 5 deep breaths.

8. Walk your feet to your hands. Place your hands onto the front of your shins. Inhale, straighten your arms while pushing your chest away from your legs and flattening your back. Exhale, fold over again.

9. Open your arms wide and with a flat, strong (HEALTHY) back, lift your body all the way up to standing, extending your arms once again over your head and into a full body stretch.

10. Exhale, bring your arms to your sides for Standing Neutral Pose.

Close your eyes again. Check in to see how you feel. Is your heart racing? Is your breath deep or shallow? Are there any emotions on the surface of your being?  If you feel up to it, continue another 1-4 cycles of the Sun Salutation series.

When you have finished, please drink another full glass of water while reminding yourself of how lucky you are to be so healthy. True health starts with a positive mind. Have a healthy day!
"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." ~Jim Rohn


Have a comment or question? Visit our Yoga Forum to start or join a conversation.



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About the Author

Voted "Best Yoga Instructor in LA" by Los Angeles Family Magazine, Alanna Zabel is the creator and founder of AZIAM Yoga. In addition to her Yoga certifications, she is a certified fitness and Pilates instructor. Alanna holds a double BA in Child Development and Theatre/Dance. She is currently working towards a Masters degree in Psychology.

Alanna focuses all of her work on the personal Self realization of those she is working with. She leads yoga retreats nationally and internationally, including her signature juice-fasting and DETOX retreats.

Alanna has written and illustrated seven childrens books, including, The Seven Doors, a childrens book version of Deepak Chopra’s best selling novel, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. 

Distilled down to the most basic element, “I AM” is the utmost essence of being.  It is the healing power of the Universe and the absolute power of being exactly who you are.  Use this power every day to build the foundation on which to re-create your Self in each moment.  There is no limit to the power of “I AM” to access healing and transformation of every aspect of your life.  The word “Om” is a form of “I AM”.

Alanna has been featured in Self, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Yoga Fit, People, Life & Style, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, and Yogi Times magazines, as well as having been
featured in several yoga/fitness productions.

For more information on Alanna, please view her website at www.aziam.com.



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