Eight Angle Pose
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”.
Eight-angle pose is a lot less scary to begin tinkering around with than some of the other arm balances, as you start from a seated position rather than coming down into it. Also, a lot like in shoulder press pose where your legs are squeezing your shoulders, in eight-angle, you have your thighs squeezing together over your arm to help hold you up, giving you an extra layer of support so it’s not 100 percent arms and abs.
Benefits of Eight Angle Pose
Eight-Angle pose strengthens the arms and abdominal muscles, improves core strength and balance, stretches the legs. 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.
How to Do Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)
- Begin in a comfortable seated position.
- Bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot to the floor close to your right buttock.
- Lift the your right foot off the floor, bringing your shin roughly parallel to the floor.
- Thread your right arm under your right knee.
- Try to get your right knee as high as possible on the right arm, maybe even bringing the knee over the right shoulder. It may take several adjustments to get the knee to its highest position.
- Plant both palms on the floor on higher side of your hips and straighten your left leg.
- Press into your palms to lift your body, including your left leg and foot, off the floor. This is eka hasta bhujasana. Your left leg needs to be engaged with the foot flexed for this to be possible. You right leg needs to be actively hugging your right arm.
- Once you have the left leg lifted, bend that leg and bring the foot toward your body to hook your left ankle around your right ankle.
- Bend your arms to 90 degrees to shift the weight of your torso forward, towards parallel to the floor. At the same time, move both legs over to the right, parallel to the front of your mat.
- Straighten both legs as much as possible, squeezing your right arm. Lift your head but don’t crank your neck.
- Straighten your arms and shift your weight back to lower to your butt with control. Repeat the pose on the other side.
Eight Angle Pose for Beginners
Having a strong core is one of the key components necessary to unlock challenging arm balances. If you find it difficult to balance in this pose, rest the bottom hip and outer leg on a bolster.
- Work up to step 7. You must be able to lift your whole body up before continuing.
If you can do side crow and elephant’s trunk pose (eka hasta bhujasana), you’ve got the building blocks. If not, keep working on your arm balances and abdominal strength. This pose will still be here when you are ready.
Eight Angle Pose for Advanced
The challenge with hand to wrist variation is that it requires your arms to be a bit narrower than before. Once again, you’ll want to have your arms in the correct position on the floor before you lift yourself up. The most important thing here is that you’re distributing the weight correctly in the flattened palm, since it’s doing most of the heavy lifting.
- Try moving back to Chaturanga Dandasana without letting the feet touch down until the end.
Eight-Angle Pose (Astavakrasana) is a perfect example of a posture that is much more about understanding what goes where, rather than having enough strength to do it. As tricky as it may appear, once you find the balance point and figure out how to utilize certain body “locks,” it is actually much easier to hold than many other arm balances. The biggest barrier for most people is a lack of range of motion in the hip. Both the groin and the outer hip (especially the gluteus muscles) must be open in order to do this arm balance. Thus, stretching these muscles is an excellent place to start when warming up for eight-angle pose.