The Eight-Angle pose is an intermediate pose in Hatha Yoga dedicated to Sage Astavakra. According to ancient Indian legends, when he was in his mother’s womb, his father, ‘Kagola’, made numerous mistakes while reciting the Vedas (ancient Indian texts). Hearing these the sage laughed, and this enraged the father, who cursed his son to be born crooked. He was thus born twisted in eight places and his name ‘Astavakra’ translates to eight twists in Sanskrit.
Although the story behind the pose is entertaining, long-time practitioners of the eight-angle pose have found great improvement in their overall body strength and concentration.
The Basics of Eight-Angle Pose:
This pose is ideal for intermediate or advanced practitioners who are comfortable with the crow or crane pose and have developed sufficient strength and balance. This is known as ‘Astavakrasana’ in Sanskrit and is a balance pose.
If want to do the eight-angle pose, then the Chaturanga Dandasana (‘Four-Limbed Staff Pose) is an excellent preparatory pose because it builds your strength and sense of balance. If you are already able to do the eight-angle pose, then you can follow it up with poses such as the seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana), child’s pose (Balasana), or even the fish pose (Matsyasana).
The Benefits of Eight-Angle Pose:
The eight-angle pose reverses the flow of ‘apana’ (downward and outward flow of energy from the body) and directs the energy towards the Manipura (solar plexus) chakra. It is said that this helps maintain ‘brahmacharya’ (celibacy) for those who wish to practice yoga at higher spiritual levels.
But the pose has many other benefits as well. It helps develop nervous control throughout the mind and body. Additionally, it strengthens one’s wrists, abdominal muscles, and muscles in limbs.
How To Practice Eight-Angle Pose:
- Stand on the ground with your feet around half a meter apart.
- Bend your knees, place your right palm on the ground between the feet, and your left palm slightly in front of your left foot.
- Place your right leg above your right arm and rest your thigh on the back of the upper arm, just above the elbow.
- Bring your left foot forward between your arms and ensure it lies close to the right foot.
- Lift both legs from the ground and place your left foot on your right ankle to interlock your feet.
- Stretch both legs to the right side so the right arm is between your thighs.
- Your right elbow should be slightly bent, and your left upper arm should be straight.
- Balance your body on your arms.
- Once you have found your center of gravity and are stable, bend your elbows and lower your trunk and head so that they are parallel to the ground.
- Hold this final position for as long as you are comfortable.
- Gently release the pose and return to the starting position.
- Repeat the pose on the other side.
- Follow the pose up with Savasana or Advasana.
Common Mistakes During Practice:
Many try to attempt this pose before adequately warming up or developing the strength of the wrists. This can cause injury. When you are lifting your body off the ground, use the core strength in your abdominal muscles and not your arms. As mentioned earlier, if you wish to do this pose, start with the crane/crow pose to get your body used to a balance pose such as this one.
Another common mistake practitioners tend to make is to look down at the floor and let their necks hang loose. This can cause injury if the pose is practiced this way long-term. When you are in the final position, breathe normally. Inhale deeply while stretching your legs sideways. This will help you maintain your balance and focus.
Beginner’s Tip for Practising the Eight-Angle Pose:
If you are unable to come into the pose standing up, another way is to be seated on the ground with your palms on the floor, interlocking your feet with your knees bent and then gradually coming into the pose.
For those who find themselves unable to lift their torso from the ground, place a cushion or folded blanket under your buttocks to add a small amount of elevation from the ground. This will help you achieve a gentle lift and perform the final pose.
When you start practicing this pose, it does not matter if you are unable to hold it for a long time. Before getting into the final pose, practice lifting your body off the ground with your legs interlocked and bent at the knee. Once you are comfortable balancing on your arms, graduate to straightening your legs and folding them back again. This will help you slowly build strength to hold the final pose with ease.
Cautions For the Eight-Angle Pose:
It is highly recommended that you develop arm and shoulder strength before you decide to practice this pose. You should also be familiar with balancing poses before you attempt this.
Apart from that, those with back problems, irregular blood pressure, and hip conditions should not practice this pose. Also, if you are practicing this pose without the guidance of a teacher, place a cushion in front of you. This will prevent injury to your face in case you fall forwards and hit the ground.
Variations Of the Eight-Angle Pose:
If you have yoga blocks, then you can place your palms on them instead of the ground and raise your trunk off the floor. In this variation instead of bringing your legs to the shoulder, you bring them to your side. This helps you achieve the same benefits as the original pose.
For those comfortable holding this pose, you can also lower your arms and place your elbows on the ground and balance your body on your forearms instead of your palms. An even more advanced variation is to balance the body on the elbows and touch your chin or cheeks with your palms. But of course, these are advanced variations of an already difficult pose so take your time getting comfortable with the original pose. Build up the stability and strength to slowly graduate to/ these variations over time.