Pose of the Month: Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)
Astavakrasana is a pose that is dedicated to the sage Astavakra who, according to the myth, infuriated his father who then cursed him to be born crooked with 8 different body deformities. Eight Angle Pose may resemble the stereotypical contorted looking yoga pose found on the cover of popular yoga magazines. However, due to the beautiful nature of yoga, a pose stems much deeper allowing us to explore our mental flexibility. The expression of the pose should engage the soul rather than the ego. As the story goes the sage Astavakra says, “If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound.” Metaphorically the deformed sages epiphany depicts that we are sometimes bound by the definitions of ourselves and cling to our limitations completely fabricated from our “fears”. But by shifting our thoughts and letting go of these mental blocks we are able to align with our true nature and spirit with exquisite vastness. With breath, love, and practice we are able to discover an arm balance with surprising tenderness of the spirit and a smile on our face.
Physically, Eight Angle Pose will help strengthen and lengthen the hips, core, and arms. With the natural twist of the pose it also helps strengthen the mobility of the spinal column, while also aiding in digestion and releasing the body of toxins.
- Prepatory poses and warming up is always suggested before participating in a more challenging pose. Astavakrasana benefits tremendously with open hips and a strong engagement in the core. A few poses to prepare your body are; Chair pose (Utkatasana), Wide Legged Forward Fold (Pasarita Pandotasana), Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), and Compass pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana).
- After you are good and warm take a seat extending your legs out in front of you finding a tall spine for Staff Pose. Take a few deep breaths noticing as it waves through the length of your spine, settling the mind.
- Next pull the right foot in towards your seat. To help prepare the twist found in Astavakrasana inhale your right hand high, exhale and wrap it around the front of your shin. Inhale your left arm behind your back maybe receiving your right hand. MODIFICATION: you can use a strap here if your shoulders are tight. Exhale to deepen the twist, anchoring through the thigh and foot, and broaden through your breast bone. Inhale ,release arms and exhale, counter twist your torso to the other side.
- Next, take your right foot and shin towards your chest wrapping your arms around it and rock it from side to side to open the hip a bit more (yes, like a little leg baby).
- From here take your right arm underneath the back of the knee and plant the right hand on the outside of your right hip. Try and pull your leg as far up on your tricep as you can then plant the left hand near the outside of your left hip. Let your right arm bend almost to a 90 degree angle and press the thigh into your arm to help keep it from falling.
- Take a moment to engage your core and come back to your breath to steady the mind.
- Now, hook your left foot over the right and flex the toes.
- Engage the inner thighs while you kick the heels out towards the right and lean forward with your chest bending the elbows to 90 degree angles.
- Focus your drishti, engage the pelvic floor and lower abdomen.
- Repeat on other side
- MODIFICATION: If you find it hard to balance or would like some support, place a bolster underneath your bottom hip and outer thigh.
Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana) is a fun and liberating arm balance. Be patient, kind, and most importantly have fun. Judgment is of the ego and being free is of the spirit.
A special thanks to Full Circle Yoga’s instructor Gennie Redman for sharing some insight on expressing Astavakrasana.