Eight-Angle Pose

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Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose) is a challenging but rewarding posture that requires strength, flexibility, balance, and confidence.

While Astavakrasana is a powerful upper-back strengthener, it’s important to build up both core and back strength before trying it. The more strength you have, the less likely you are to dump all of your weight into your shoulders, elbows, and wrists when you push up. Take your time over weeks or even months doing poses like Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) with good alignment to get your upper back and core in shape to bear weight safely in this peak pose.

Pressing your thighs together in this strength-building posture can help you float into the pose, says yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti. (The bottom leg tends to lag, so squeeze it firmly against your upper arm.) If that action causes a slight shift in your positioning, that’s OK, as long as you adjust your arms to compensate. “It’s OK if the weight of the legs pushes the shoulders down—just actively move the shoulders back enough to prevent them from getting overpowered,” she says.

Eight-Angle Pose basics

Sanskrit: Astavakrasana (ahsh-tah-vah-krahs-ah-nah)

Pose type: Arm balance

Targets: Upper body

Why We Love It:  “I sat back in class and quietly watched other students find their way into this pose for, quite literally, years. It just seemed…beyond me,” says Yoga Journal Senior Editor Renee Schettler. “That is until I started taking classes taught by Justin Levine at a studio in Phoenix. Thanks to his challenging and smartly designed sequencing, when we got to Astavakrasana, it honestly seemed the next logical way to position my body. Of course I would put my knee behind my shoulder! I flailed and flopped at first. (Not unlike my first attempts at a lot of things in life.) I suspect coming into the pose has to do with equal parts smart sequencing, arm and core strength, reaching through your heels, breathwork, humor, and relentlessness. But mostly, to me, it’s about the fact that you are usually stronger than you think. Even in your flailing.”

Become a member today to get access to Yoga Journal‘s Pose Library, which blends expert insights from top teachers with video instruction, anatomy know-how, variations, and more for dozens of poses, including Eight-Angle Pose. It’s a resource you’ll return to again and again.

Pose benefits

Eight-Angle Pose improves postural and body awareness, boosts energy, and can help build confidence.

Eight-Angle Pose: Step-by-step instructions

  1. Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose).
  2. Bend your right knee, draw your thigh out toward the right side, and bring your right knee over your right shoulder. Firmly press your right leg into the arm to stabilize yourself. (If your leg does not make it onto your shoulder, hold it with both hands as high as you can comfortably maintain.)
  3. Tilt yourself slightly forward and place your hands on the floor on either side of your hips about shoulder-width apart. Continue to grip your right shoulder with your right calf and inner thigh.
  4. Press your hands into the mat and engage your abdominal muscles to lift your hips and left leg.
  5. Hook your left ankle over your right ankle and press your ankles together. Draw your inner thighs toward your upper arm, then bring your chest forward and bend your elbows while swinging your legs to the right.
  6. Press through your heels to straighten your legs. Breathe here.
  7. To exit the pose, inhale to lift your chest and swing your legs back toward the center of the mat. Exhale, uncross your ankles, and return to Dandasana.

Beginner’s tip

If you find it difficult to balance in this pose, rest your bottom hip and leg on a bolster.

Teaching Astavakrasana

These cues will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

Variation: Eight-Angle Pose with blocks

Lift your body straight up instead of leaning forward;  bring your legs to the side not to your shoulder. Place your hands on  blocks at the lower height to create a bit more space to lift into the pose.

Preparatory poses

Plank Pose

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)

Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)

Bakasana (Crane Pose)

Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose)

Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose)

Marichyasana III

Counter poses

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Become a member today to gain access to our exclusive Pose Library, including our complete guide to Eight-Angle Pose, featuring video instruction, anatomy know-how, and additional pose variations. You’ll also get access to members-only content, sequences, and classes, a subscription to Yoga Journal magazine, meal plans and recipes, and more.

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