Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose)
When you jump, take your weight onto your hands as if you were doing Handstand. Lift your body by drawing the floor of your pelvis up and your lower abdomen back toward the spine. The sensation should be as much one of going up as going forward. This warm-up will give you a feel for whether the length of your modified Downward Dog is about right, and it will also help you gauge just how much physical effort you'll eventually need to jump into Astavakrasana without your feet touching the floor. Practice this little leap until you feel confident and controlled in the movement, and able to land lightly.
At that point, you can try jumping so that your right knee lands gently on your upper right arm without the foot touching the floor. At the same time, swing your left leg between your arms without the left foot touching the floor. Then cross your ankles and proceed into Astavakrasana. To come back out of the pose, lift your body slightly, bend your left knee, and pull your left foot toward your body. Then shoot your left leg straight back and simultaneously swing your right leg out and back so that you come into Chaturanga Dandasana. Press your palms into the floor and lift your abdomen back and up until you come into Adho Mukha Svanasana. Then repeat the procedure on the left side.
Another method is to come into Astavakrasana from Sirsasana II (Tripod Headstand). Still another approach is to go into Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), come down into Astavakrasana on the right side, press back up into Handstand, repeat Astavakrasana on the left side, go back into Handstand, drop to Chaturanga, and then press back into Adho Mukha Svanasana. You'll notice that I've given no details or tips on how to do these two techniques. That's because I can't do them. But I've been told by reliable people that they can be and are done, so every now and then I give them a go—which always ends in my sinking (or crashing) to the floor in a heap. It's fun to try, though, whether I get it or not.
I've had the opportunity to present yoga to children, and jumping into and out of poses is a great way to teach them the practice. Children love to leap around; for them, landing in a heap is sometimes more fun than landing in a pose. They are usually willing to try anything and their faces light up with the joy of moving and playing. The poses are just an excuse for them to have fun.
I'm not saying that a mature practice of yoga should be all child's play. As I mentioned earlier, yoga is very serious business. But if you get lost in trying to attain the goal without attending to and enjoying the journey, all you'll attain is frustration and negativity. Whether we're talking about Astavakrasana or kaivalya (liberation), frustration and grim determination will eventually cause you to tighten up, lose energy, get exhausted, and feel bad about yourself.
Of course, you need to apply intelligent effort, encounter the obstacles that present themselves, and observe your reactions. You must be with your obstacles fully without denying them—whether your challenges are weak abs or worldly distractions—to see clearly what is needed to deal with them. If you're not serious in this way, you certainly won't attain your goals.
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