3 Keys to Bliss: Bandhas, Backbends and Self Care

Jamie Ebert is enrolled in the month-long Wanderlust Teacher Training intensive in Squaw Valley, Calif. Throughout the course of…

Jamie Ebert is enrolled in the month-long Wanderlust Teacher Training intensive in Squaw Valley, Calif. Throughout the course of her training, she invites us to join her in her exploration of yoga, self and adventure.

My brain is brimming with new information. I’ve studied and taught for years, but there is no shortage of knowledge to acquire in the yoga world. This was a particularly exciting week as we covered three of my favorite topics: bandhas, backbends, and self-care.

The Bandhas are mysterious and monumentally practice-changing 

Bandha literally translates to “lock.” You can think of a bandha as an energy lock but I like to think of it as tapping in, like a spile into a maple tree which lets loose the goodness that is maple syrup. Instead of letting our energy pour out, connecting to your bandhas will help you to use that inner maple syrup to help support and lift you up effortlessly in your practice. The energetic and muscular engagement of your pelvic floor and behind your navel can completely change how you move through a yoga practice. Every time I dive in to the bandhas, there are new levels to discover and applications to experience. If you take classes where you practice arm balances or inversions, be sure to take some time with an experienced teacher and tap into your own energy to support you in flying and going upside down.

Backbends are invigorating…when practiced with awareness and alignment

Spinal extension is the action of every backbend but without the awareness of extending the spine long before arching back, it is possible to create problems in your lumbar spine as well as adrenal fatigue. When you practice bending backwards, the arch of your spine can put safe pressure around your adrenal glands, releasing a little bit of extra adrenaline into your system. This adrenaline creates the awake and alive feeling you might experience when you release. Too much backbending without engaging strongly on the front side of your body (legs and abdominal muscles) can lead you down a path to adrenal fatigue. So be mindful in how you energize your backward bends, make sure you lengthen your spine the whole time and use the muscles in your whole body to support you.

Self Care is NECESSARY

Having a strong asana practice (performing physical poses) means that you must take the time to balance out your system through nutrition, mental relaxation, and self massage. In the Wanderlust training, we took time to use massage balls of varying densities as well as a foam roller to learn how to release our fascia, muscles, and even get into our tendons and deeper. The muscles we use every day need to be released and even more so when we use them to be active. If you don’t have the time or budget to schedule bodywork, find a raquet/lacrosse/tennis ball and use it! Roll it under one foot at a time to release some of the tension in the sole or lay down and place the ball under your back muscles, then remember to breathe and let the sensations work themselves out for 2 minutes. You might be amazed what those few minutes can do for your body.

New friends are inspiring and transformational

In the Wanderlust trainings, each week can have a new crowd and in Squaw Valley this April, we have had at least one new person each week. We have a group from all over the country and the friendships that have been sparked are truly inspiring. Each individual in the group has a unique reason that led them to yoga and this training. Seeing the struggles people have been through and watching the moments in yoga that transform them is a profound shared experience unlike anything else. Those moments connect you to that deep understanding we are looking for all the time in yoga practice, reminders that we all share the same experience in humanity and moving through the world and this connects us as people.

jamie ebertJamie Ebert hails from the northern end of Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California. She spent her formidable, early adult years developing on the Eastern shores of Lake Champlain, otherwise known as Burlington, Vermont. She teaches yoga, manages the Wanderlust Yoga Studio in Squaw Valley, California, is incredibly geeky and passionate about all things photography, fantasy, pet-related, and of course yoga. Ever since she was a tiny person, she’s loved being a student and nothing has kept her more riveted than discovering the wide world of yoga. Now, she chooses to spend her time sharing, learning and refining her practice, while deeply aspiring to leave seeds of inspiration everywhere she goes.