Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose)
Glued to the Floor?
Those who are unable to lift off the floor commonly lament, "My arms aren't long enough." Although your arms certainly help lift you up, it's really your abdominal muscles that elevate your hips.
Do your buttocks feel glued to the floor, unable to rise in spite of your best efforts? Try practicing the abdomen-strengthening asanas suggested earlier. Also, even if you can't leave the floor just yet, draw your navel backwards toward your spine as you keep trying to lift; that action in itself will help you get stronger.
Feeling glued to the floor can lead to frustration that will undermine your efforts. If that's happening to you, you've set the wrong goal.
Instead of feeling defeated by your inability to lift up, try to see how long you can maintain the maximum effort of pressing your hands into the floor and drawing your navel back. In addition to practicing the preparatory strengtheners, build the amount of time you can maintain your effort without tightening your facial muscles or holding your breath. You can also gradually increase the number of times you make the attempt. Strength will come. And then, up you'll go—or not. The value, the growth—the yoga—is not in elevating your behind, but rather in bringing full effort and attention to your attempts.
If you do finally get up, there will always be a next step; so rather than seeking some final attainment, you might as well enjoy playing with the abilities you have at each step of the way.
There are other ways to experiment with overcoming that glued-to-the-floor feeling. One way is to place your hands on blocks instead of on the floor. You may find that this will allow you to lift off. The balance is a little trickier, so lift gradually, without jerking. Use the blocks only as long as you need to. (After all, you want to avoid Patanjali's obstacles of laziness and inability to progress).
Yet another way to approach Eka Hasta Bhujasana (and Astavakrasana) is from standing. In Tadasana (Mountain Pose), separate your feet about 6 to 8 inches apart. Bend forward at the hips and then, bending your knees slightly, tuck your right upper arm behind your right knee. Place your right hand slightly behind and outside your right foot and your left hand behind and slightly outside your left foot. Your right arm will be inside your right leg; your left arm will be outside your left leg.
Bend your knees still more and lower your hips, keeping your right knee well up on your right arm. (You will be able to plant your right hand much more firmly than your left, which is okay for the moment.) Grip your right upper arm with your inner right knee (as described in the previous instructions), press your right hand into the floor, and lift your right foot slightly away from the floor. You will still have weight on your left foot, which should be slightly in front of your hands. Now take the weight off your left foot and onto your left hand, stretching the left leg out in front of you for Eka Hasta Bhujasana.
Once you can accomplish Eka Hasta Bhujasana, you can begin to move into Astavakrasana. In Eka Hasta Bhujasana, bend the raised left leg and cross your left ankle over your right ankle, maintaining the stretch of the arches of both feet (Figure 3). You must continue to grip your right arm with the inner right knee all the while, or your leg will slide down your arm and your pose will wilt like a flower in the hot sun.