3 Variations to Access This Arm Balance

eight angle pose


There always seems to be a sense of mystery attached to Ashtavakrasana (8-Angle Pose). How is it possible to balance in what appears to be such a complicated position for the body? Comforting to know is that once you break everything down and place technique at the core of your focus, Ashtavakrasana becomes a lot less complex. Whatever variation you are attempting, technique will always be the key to unlocking access to this and any other arm balance. In intricate detail as always, Matt breaks down 3 variations in today’s video. Moreover, he offers the benefit of increasing your anatomical knowledge via the technique within this posture. If you are armed with both technique and anatomical knowledge, Ashtravakrasana loses its mystique and becomes an arm balance you can approach with clarity.

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In the full class, Matt explains that the adductor muscles (pectineus; gracilis; and the adductors brevis, longus, and magnus) are extremely helpful in assisting with taking flight in arm balance postures. This is particularly true for Ashtavakrasana when it comes to “clamping” the legs on the arm. The abductor muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) are also part of the equation, and the internal rotators of the hip belong to the abductor group: The TFL muscle and the pectineus, along with the front fibers of the gluteus medius and minimus, work together to create internal rotation. Why is this important? Knowing the location of these muscles enhances your awareness and understanding of your own body. When activating these muscle groups to execute the posture, you will better decipher which areas require more strengthening for stability and balance in the posture.




First, let’s have a look at the steps in variation 1 of Ashtavakrasana:

Step 1: From a seated position, bring one leg over your arm as much as possible.

Step 2: Cross the bottom foot over the top of the ankle of the first leg.

Step 3: Lean forward and pull your hips back to get you off of the ground.

Matt provides the option to stay here, but he also suggests layering on the action of internally rotating the top leg. In this case, the bottom leg stays on the ground instead of crossing at the ankle, while you lean way forward on wide hands and internally rotate the top leg. You can also add props. By sitting up on a bolster, for example, you can take balance out of the equation and home in on the sensation of the internal rotation of the top leg.

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In the second and third variations, the importance of the internal rotation of the top leg is revealed. All of the steps from variation 1 are implemented, including the cross at the ankle, in variation 2. What you’ll see in the video is a clear distinction between what happens to the hips when the top leg is internally rotated versus when it is not. When you turn it in (internally rotate), the hips go up, as opposed to externally rotating the hip and the hips going down. Once the internal rotators are activated, you can’t help but tap into the activation of the adductor and abductor groups. Now, the third variation is really going to expose where strength needs to be improved. There is no crossing at the legs here; instead, you’re fastening your ankles side by side. As a result, your adductors are put to the test.

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Beyond the awareness of the physical aspect of Ashtavakrasana are mental focus and confidence. Arm balance postures can be scary. It’s smart to prepare both your body and the environment—strengthening through drills specific to the posture, putting blankets or pillows in place to soften any falls—but it’s also important to go for it, to take the plunge so to speak. In the end, you’ll be left with more confidence in both physicality and character, which transcends the yoga mat. This confidence dismantles the mystery of Ashtavakrasana, or any arm balance for that matter. Approaching your yoga practice in this way means that you develop the knowledge that technique and effort fuel ability.   

Matt’s next immersion, Flow & Fly, will guide you through playful yet intentional arm balance practices that will ultimately improve strength.

See you on the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Video Extracted From: Anatomy of Arm Balances

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