Eight Angle Pose, Astavakrasana, (ahsh-tah-vah-krah-suh-nuh)
asta (eight) + vakra (curved) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Ashtavakrasana
This challenging arm balance is a celebration of your commitment to your practice
Eight Angle Pose Fundamentals
Eight Angle Pose is a great introduction to arm balancing poses. Although not without its challenges, it is likely one of the easiest poses in this category, and the first many learn.
The pose requires some flexibility in the hamstrings, hips, and back and also strength in the core and arms. However, it is less difficult than it seems – if you can hold Chaturanga for some time, you’ll also be able to enter Eight Angle Pose.
Eight-Angle Pose literally translates to “eight curved” pose. This refers to the body being bent in eight different angles in this pose – in the chest, neck, hands, legs, and knees.
However, the name also relates to Ashtavakra, a Hindu sage, who was born with twists in his chest, neck, knees, hands, and feet because he was cursed by his father. His father cursed him because he was so wise he corrected him even from his mother’s womb.Regardless of his difficult destiny, he continued to share his wisdom and created Ashtavakra Gita, a text about freedom, self-awareness, and nonduality. He was also the guru of King Janaka.
This story can teach us not to allow others to prevent us from showing our true wisdom and light, and, also, that one can achieve great things regardless of their disabilities.
It can also teach us to look beyond physical appearance – we are much more than what we look like. Our real truth and value lie within.
The pose was first mentioned in 1896, in the book Vyayama Dipika, which covers gymnastics. Later, it was adapted into yoga by Krishnamacharya and was incorporated into the teachings of Patthabi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar.
Eight Angle Pose Benefits
- Strengthens the core, chest, arms, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and spine.
- Stretches the arms, diaphragm, back, psoas, pelvic floor, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
- Builds stamina and a sense of balance.
- Reduces stress, and increases focus and mental stability.
- Stimulates the organs in the abdomen and the reproductive organs.
- Brings a sense of achievement, confidence, and joy.
How To Do Eight Angle Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
- Begin in a seated position. Extend one leg in front of you and bend the other.
- Lift the foot of the bent leg and cross the opposite hand to the outer edge of the foot. Place the hand from the same side under the calf, placing the leg over the shoulder.
- Press the shoulder with the leg and point the toes.
- Place your hands on the floor next to your hips. Push into the hands to lift the hips.
- Lift the extended leg and cross it over the bent ankle. Flex the feet to hook them together.
- Move the legs to the side, bend your elbows into the Chaturanga position, and squeeze them close together.
Tips And Tricks:
- Contract your quads to straighten the knees. Straightening your crossed legs will squeeze your arms and make you feel more stable in the pose.
- Keep the elbows in for more support and stability. They will create a shelf for your chest.
- Gaze towards the ground.
- Crossing the feet and hooking them together will help you move the legs to the side and hold them off the ground.
- The hips, head, and chin should be parallel to the floor.
Eight Angle Pose Variation:
Eight Angle Pose Variation: With Blocks
As always, if you struggle with a pose, blocks come in for aid.
You can place blocks under each hand to extend your reach. This can help you with the lift-off.
You can also try doing a drill to prep for the asana: place blocks next to your hips. Sitting in Staff Pose, keep one leg straight, and bend the other. Wrap the bent foot around your tricep.
Place your hands on the blocks, and straighten the arms, to lift the body off the ground. Hold for a breath, release, and repeat.
When you’re able to lift the butt off the ground and hold the pose comfortably, try also to lift the straight leg off the ground. This would be the Elephant Trunk Pose, which you can also perform with your hands on the ground.
Note that lifting the straight leg requires a bit more core and quad strength, and might be even more difficult than Eight Angle Pose.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Hand Position. Don’t place your hands too close to your hips. Keep them about a foot in front of the hips. This allows you to fully bend the elbows and lift the buttocks off the ground.
Elbows splaying out. Keep the elbows in, close to your ribs. Otherwise, you won’t support your chest, and your shoulders could drop too low.
Avoid this pose if you have any issues in the wrists, hips, shoulders, arms, spine, or knees.
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