Classic Studies On Yoga

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Astavakrasana: All you would like to know about

Introduction

Astavakrasana is an advance level yoga exercise that belongs to Arm Balancing category. Medieval yoga texts did not mention about this posture and hence some people are of the view that it was probably not on practice during that period. It appears first in the Gymnastic text called Vyayama Dipika in 1896.

Therefore some researchers are of the view that it would have come into practice during the late ninetieth century. At the same time, one could not deny the other possibility that it would have been in practice in some yoga lineages from the time immemorial.

However, I go with the latter view, because many yoga texts claim that there are as many postures as the number of species and the texts did not explicitly mention every one of the poses. Yet, many postures though not mentioned, have been prevalent in some yoga lineages. Hence it is not correct to conclude as true that a posture was not there solely because yoga texts did not mention it.

Astavakrasana Information

Pose NameAstavakrasana
Sanskrit Nameअष्टावक्रासन
IASTaṣṭāvakrāsana
English NameEight Angle Pose
Sage Astavakra Pose
OriginIndeterminate
LevelAdvanced
GroupMayurasana
TypeArm Balance

Astavakrasana Meaning

In Sanskrit, it is asta+vakra+asana. It means eight+bend+pose. So literally it is a posture of eight bends or Angles. Therefore some people call Eight Angles Pose in English.

In fact, this posture is named after sage Astavakra, an ancient Indian sage. So, calling it Sage Astavakra Pose is more appropriate than calling it Eight Angle Pose.

Story of Astavakra

You might have heard the story of Sage Uddalaka Aruni and Svetaketu narrated in Chandogya Upanishad of Sama Veda. Aruni had a daughter cum student named Sujatha. Also Kahoda was one of the students of Aruni.

Sujatha and Kahoda got married. When she was pregnant, the fetus heard his father reciting a mantra with incorrect intonation during a discourse to his disciples. The fetus from womb told him to correct the eight errors of intonation. Having humiliated in before his disciples, Kahoda became angry and in turn he cursed the fetus to be born with eight deformities.

On request of Sujatha, Kahoda went to the palace of King Janaka for earning money. King Janaka was performing a Yanjna. In there, Bandhi defeated Kahoda in argument. As a punishment, Kahoda was drowned into the water.

Meanwhile, Sujatha gave birth to the child with deformities. Because of the eight deformities, he got the name Astavakra that means the one with eight deformities. On reaching the age of ten, Astavakra came to know about the destiny happened to his father. He went to the Palace of Janaka and defeated Bandhi in argument and asked to punish him with drowning.

Bandhi told that he was the son of Varuna, the deity of water and Kahoda was not dead. For performing a Yanjna, Varuna needed seven Brahmins, Kahoda was sent to him for the performance of Yanjna along with other defeated Brahmins.

Bandhi, on being defeated, wanted to go back to his father Varuna. Meantime Kahoda and other Brahmins were released. On his father’s advice, Astavakra immersed in the river Samanga and came up with his deformities cured. This is the story of Astavakra as found in Mahabharata.

Furthermore, Astavakra is ascribed to the text of Astavakra Gita.

Astavakrasana Practice Procedure

Safety and Precautions

This posture is not for pregnant ladies.

Besides, those who are having issues in wrists, elbows, and lower spine should avoid this posture. Moreover, persons having conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis should also avoid this posture.

Preparatory Poses

One should prepare himself with arm balancing poses.

  • Crow Pose
  • Peacock Pose
  • Downward Facing Tree Pose
  • Tree Pose

Astavakrasana Steps

Step 1

Stand with feet apart. Lean forward, place the palms on the floor. The left palm should be on floor just before the left leg; whereas place the right palm before the halfway mark between the two legs.

Step 2

Bring the right leg over the right arm and place the right thigh on the upper right arm just above the right elbow. Initially let the feet touch the floor for balancing

Step 3

Bring the left leg in between the arms and as closer to the right leg as possible.

Step 4

Raise the legs. Interlock the feet by placing left feet over the right ankle. Stretch the legs straight on the right side. Now the right arm is in between the legs and the weight of the body is on the arms. Adjust the position so that head and trunk are parallel to the floor by bending the arms suitably.

Step 5

Breathe Normally. Keep the position as long as it is comfortable.

Step 6

Repeat the steps with legs stretched on the other side for the same duration of time.

Duration

Initial duration may be ten to fifteen seconds and one can increase the duration to two/three minutes according.

Follow Up Poses

After doing this posture, one should resort to the practice of Corpse Pose for a couple of minutes.

Astavakrasana Benefits

  • It strengthens the muscles of abdomen and legs, wrist and elbows and boost their flexibility.
  • This Pose redirects the Apana upwards and thereby helps in Kundalini Yoga.
  • It gives control over nerves of the body and Nadis.
  • Eight Angle Pose helps the performer to maintain Celibacy.
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