The History Behind Astavakrasana

Friday, November 10, 2017

Astavakrasana or Eight Angle Pose is an asana with an interesting history. Dedicated to the Sage, Astavakra, the spiritual guru of King Janaka, it is told that when the Sage was in his mother’s womb, his father, Kagola, made several mistakes while reciting the Vedas. Hearing these, the unborn Sage laughed. The father became enraged and cursed his son to be born as Astavakra. So it came to pass that he was born crooked in eight places. These crooks earned him the name Ashtavakra or Eight Crooks. Yet Kagola was later defeated in a philosophical debate with Vandin, the court scholar. While still a boy the Sage, a natural scholar of great ability, went to court and avenged his father’s defeat by beating Vandin in argument and becoming the guru of Janaka. Accordingly, his father blessed him and his deformity vanished.

Quite the story!

The name comes from the Sanskrit words asta meaning “eight”, vakra meaning “bent, curved”, and asana meaning “posture” or “seat”.

Astavakrasana is a hand balance with lateral twist.  It is an excellent way to develop your stability and equilibrium, while strengthening the wrists and arms. You can try coming into this posture from Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). This is because you will normally be using this extension before lifting your legs and readjusting your arms.

Eight Angle Pose or Astavakrasana requires a strong core, powerful arm strength and reasonable opening through the hips and hamstrings in order to practice the full expression of this pose. It is a perfect example of a posture that has much more to do 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.

Quick Tip: Keep rooting the palms, lifting the hips, pressing out through the balls of the feet. Squeeze the knees toward each other, drawing the sternum forward, and gaze either down (easier on the neck) or to the horizon.

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