Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose) is one of those postures that captures the imagination of so many early practitioners, and it’s easy to see why: it’s plainly impressive.
But as with all arm balances, understanding the posture’s geometry, which marries bent-arm scapular retraction with a deep twist, is the greatest challenge. In the Ashtanga system, you jump into the balance from Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog), but for those just learning the posture or for whom jumping into Bakasana (Crane Pose) is not yet possible, we’ll begin seated.
BREATH AND ALIGNMENT
Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose). On your exhale, release the three primary locks and draw one shin parallel to your collar bones, guiding your flexed foot into the hollow of your opposite-side elbow. Cradle the shin with clasped palms to first warm the hip flexors. Release the shin, maintaining external rotating of the hip as you guide your same-side tricep beneath the lifted thigh. Firm your inner thigh to maintain a grip of the tricep as you place your hands to the outside of your hips. With straight arms, inhale to lift your sit bones from the floor and exhale as you also lift your straight extended heel from the floor for Eka Hasta Bhujasana (Elephant’s Trunk Pose). On your inhale, cross your forward ankle over the hooked ankle, and exhale as you bend your arms to 90 degrees to project your collar bones forward and send your now-straight legs to 2 o’clock.
To exit, keep a firm grip of the thigh on the tricep and inhale as you lift your chest. Keeping that grip, exhale as you unhook your forward foot and pull it into the chest to send the leg behind you to pass through Eka Pada Koundinyasana II on your way to Chaturanga Dandasana.