Astavakrasana is named after the sage Astavakra. This yoga pose registers as 13* on the 60* scale of difficulty.
According to BKS Iyengar inÂ Light on Yoga, while he was in his mother’s womb, Astavakra laughed at his father, Kagola, who made a mistake reciting the Vedas. Kagola was so angry at his son’s prenatal laughter that he cursed him to be born as Astavakra, or Eight-Crooks, and Astavakra was born crooked in eight places. Astavakra became a great young scholar, defeating the court scholar in a philosophical debate. Upon this victory, Kagola blessed his son and Astavakra’s deformities vanished and he was straight again.
The pose Astavakrasana requires crookedness to reach straightness. First, do Eka Hasta Bhujangasana (stay tuned – this is the next yoga pose in the blog). To do Eka Hasta Bhujangasana, extend your left leg long in front of you. Cradle your right leg in your arms and swing your right leg over your right shoulder so the back of your right knee is as high up your right shoulder as possible. The high placement of your bent leg on your shoulder is essential to moving into Astavakrasana. Then, press your hands down by your hips to lift yourself off the ground.
Next, bend your left leg and cross your left foot over your right. Press your feet into each other to help maintain the strength in your legs. Then begin to swing your hips over to the right and straighten your legs. Bend your elbows like you would in Chaturanga Dandasana. Squeeze your inner thighs together as much as possible and drop your torso parallel with the earth.
While Astavakrasana ultimately requires straight legs and straightening your body parallel to the floor, you can only achieve this by exaggerated crookedness in the steps leading up to the yoga pose. The crook of your knee resting on your shoulder in Eka Hasta Bhujangasana, the firm intertwining of your feet as you extend your legs, the 90 degree bend of your elbows all combine to assist you into a longer, straighter Astavakrasana.
BKS Iyengar’s method of getting into the pose differs slightly in that he doesn’t begin with Eka Hasta Bhujangasana and instead keeps both legs bent until the final moments before the complete pose. Personally, I prefer beginning in Eka Hasta Bhujangasana to remind myself to create length in my legs in the final pose. But you tell me – how do you get into Astavakrasana?