Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose)
But one thing seems common to both genders: They both get frustrated pretty quickly when trying to do Astavakrasana. As it turns out, learning Astavakrasana—like any good goal—can help you develop the very things you may be lacking: not just physical strength and flexibility, but also patience and insight.
As usual with more difficult poses, practice of more basic asanas will provide a springboard from which to make the leap. Since flexibility and strength in the hips and legs are necessary for Astavakrasana, standing poses and forward bends, especially Marichyasana I (Marichi's Pose), will be helpful.
Toned muscles in the abdomen and lower back—two more requirements for Astavakrasana—can be cultivated with Paripurna and Ardha Navasana (Full and Half Boat Pose) and Jatara Parivartanasana (Stomach-Revolving Pose).
To strengthen your upper body, practice Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Downward-Facing Tree, a.k.a Handstand), and Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose).
Lolasana (Pendant Pose), challenging in itself, begins to put the whole package together. Proficiency in all of these will give you a good start.
Another preparatory pose, Eka Hasta Bhujasana (One Hand Arm Pose), incorporates many of the elements of Astavakrasana. Begin by sitting in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Stretch your legs out straight in front of you with your thighs together and your front thigh muscles (quadriceps) firmly pressing your thigh bones (femurs) deep into the backs of your legs. The grounding of the femurs in this manner is an important aspect of this pose and of Astavakrasana.
Place your palms on the floor beside your hips, fingers pointing forward. Move your inner shoulder blades (the part of the scapulae nearer the spinal column) downward toward your kidneys. Bend your right knee, drawing the knee back and up toward your torso.
With your right arm inside your right thigh, take hold of your lower leg with both hands. Hold the bottom of your right calf with your right hand and grip your inner right ankle with your left hand. Next, lift and place your right knee onto your upper right arm near the shoulder. Keep your left leg fully extended on the floor, both buttocks on the floor, and your chest lifted.
If it is difficult for you to raise your right leg so that it is well up on your arm, you'll need to work on the aforementioned standing and forward-bending poses until you have the necessary flexibility for the leg movement.
Once your right leg is positioned on your arm, release your leg with your right hand and place that hand on the floor about six inches outside and slightly in front of your right hip, fingers pointing forward. Your right arm will be bent.
Continue holding the ankle with your left hand, which will help keep the leg from sliding down your arm. But how do you keep this from happening once you let go of your leg with your left hand?
Try this: While still holding your ankle with your left hand, stretch the arch of your right foot from the heel to the ball. Maintain that stretch and, without pointing your toes, point the inner ball of your foot (near the big toe) toward the floor. This action of the foot will help you to grip your upper right arm with your calf and your knee, much like a nutcracker grips a nut.