Eight-Angle pose (Astavakrasana) is dedicated to the sage Astavakra who, according to legend, enraged his father while still in the womb and was cursed to be born crooked in eight places.
An advanced arm balance with a twist, Eight-Angle pose does indeed seem to be an impossibly crooked way to contort the body — all while balancing on the hands! As the story goes, the wise Astavakra says, “If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound.”
Letting go of whatever limitations or weaknesses you perceive in yourself — physically or mentally — is the key to finding the necessary space and freedom to soar into this pose!
Benefits Of Eight-Angle Pose
Eight-Angle pose strengthens the wrists and arms, improves balance, and tones the abdominal muscles. Given the twisting nature of the spine, Eight-Angle pose also aids with digestion and the elimination of toxins from the body. Practice with caution if you have wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries.
Eight-Angle Pose Step-By-Step
- Begin seated in Dandasana (Stick Pose), with both legs extended out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee in to your chest, then bring your right arm to the inside of your bent right leg. Take a hold of your right foot or ankle with both hands and begin to snuggle the underside of your right knee behind your right shoulder, as if you’re pulling on the strap of a backpack. Hook your right leg as firmly behind the right shoulder as you can.
- Keeping the calf of the right leg hugging firmly behind the right shoulder, place your palms down on either side of your hips. Spread the fingers wide, keep the chest lifted and the collarbone as broad as you can.
- Maintaining the hug of the right leg around the shoulder and the palms planted on the ground, pick up the left leg and lightly cross your left ankle over your right.
- Begin to bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle and extend the heart forward as if you are moving into Chaturanga (elbows over wrists). Keep the legs squeezing firmly and extend them as straight as you can.
- Note the tendency for the left shoulder to collapse here, and keep both shoulder heads lifted and level with one another. Stay here for 3-5 full breaths, then gently lift the torso, straighten the arms, and set your bottom back down on the ground to come out of the pose. Whenever you feel ready, repeat on the other side.
- Having a strong core is one of the key components necessary to unlock challenging arm balances. Although arm strength is important to help get you up, it’s actually your abdominal muscles that elevate your hips and keep you lifted. Working on core-strengthening poses such as Plank, Dolphin Plank, and Boat (Navasana) pose are all excellent preparation for arm balances such as Eight-Angle pose.
- Just as strength is necessary, so is flexibility! Opening up the legs and hips with preparatory poses such as Pigeon, Happy Baby and forward folds are a great way to set yourself up for success.
- Keeping the gaze focused on one fixed point (either on the ground just in front of you or toward the feet) can help with stability and mental focus.