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Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose) can be intimidating for first-timers: You’re lifting your hips, wrapping your legs around your arm, lowering your torso into a pushup position, balancing your entire body—and ideally maintaining a sense of calm, ease, and grace. If the pose seems out of reach, don’t be discouraged. Focus on building arm and core strength, and over time you’ll come to experience the empowerment and exhilaration Astavakrasana offers.
Lisa Black, owner of Shakti Vinyasa Yoga in Seattle, says, “As a teacher I use this pose to show students the possibility of reaching a seemingly unattainable goal.” To that end, Black begins her sequence with foundational poses to prepare the body and build confidence, and encourages students to focus on strength-building poses such as Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose) and Eka Hasta Bhujasana (Elephant’s Trunk Pose). Begin by holding each pose for three to five breaths, increasing the number of breaths over time.
The key to success in this pose? Black advocates remaining playful and having fun with the challenge. “I experience freedom, weightlessness, and a sense of elation when practicing Astavakrasana,” she says. Include this sequence in your regular repertoire and, with patience and perseverance, you will, too.
Before you Begin
Salute. Warm up with 5 to 15 minutes of your favorite Sun Salutation.
Awaken. Energize your abdominal muscles with some core exercises—for example, reclining leg lifts.
After you Finish
Fold and Open
Practice: some seated forward bends and hip openers like Janu Sirsasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose) and Pigeon Pose to cool the body and relax the mind.
Lie on your back and pull your right knee into your chest, keeping your left leg extended. Draw the knee across your body and lower it toward the floor as you open your right arm out to the side. Repeat on the left side.
Rest in Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 5 to 10 minutes to mark the end of your practice.