Crazy Eights is the name of the transition from flying splits (Eka Pada Koundinyasana) into eight angle pose (Astavakrasana).
The Crazy Eights transition asks a lot of the wrists. It demands the core, chest, inner thighs, and arms to sustain the postures. Warming and stretching the wrists and forearms will aid the entrance and exit through the poses.
This post covers the benefits of arm balancing, helpful transitions for beginners and advanced practitioners, class playlists and courses to strengthen the body for arm balancing, and the energy associated with core work.
Table of Contents:
About Eight Angle Pose – Story of Ashtavakra
Eight angle pose is a powerful yoga pose that requires strength, agility, and focus.
Named for the Hindu Sage, Ashtavakra, Astavakrasana comes from ‘astra’ meaning ‘eight’ and ‘vakra’ meaning ‘bent’.
According to Indian mythology, the sage Ashtavakra was cursed by his father while still in the womb and is born bent in eight places.
Ashtavakra lives as a seeker in the forest and is revered by King Janaka for his knowledge of the Self and enlightenment.
The pose Astavakrasana requires the same discipline and determination the sage Ashtavakra displayed in his action and word.
Physical and Mental Advantages
The body benefits from eight angle pose as it strengthens the chest, torso, arms, back, and legs muscles.
Muscles strengthened in Astavakrasana:
- Arms (biceps, triceps).
- Chest (pectorals, serratus).
- Core (abdominals, obliques).
- Inner thigh (adductors).
- Outer hips (gluteus maximus).
- Upper back (trapezius, rhomboids).
Mentally, eight angle pose encourages the practitioner to focus, sustain balance, and overcome obstacles.
Astavakrasana also enhances blood flow and lymph fluid which aids in eliminating toxins.
Benefits of Arm Balancing Postures:
Builds strength in the arms and chest.
Opens and strengthens the muscles of the upper back.
Develops the abdominal muscles and deep core stabilizers.
Enhances balance, focus, and determination.
5 Tips to Prepare for Crazy Eights
– Flying Splits to Eight Angle Pose
A strong core is needed to lift from the ground and sustain the arm balance. The core muscles include the transverse abdominals, rectus abdominals, and obliques. Strong erectors—the muscles attached to the spine— are also needed to stabilize in arm balancing poses. The core and resistance band classes on Practice with Clara engage the core, back body, and glutes to strengthen the muscles needed to achieve arm balancing.
Strengthening the muscles of the chest and arms—including the biceps, triceps, and pectorals— will help you sustain arm balancing poses. It’s not just the strength to get into the pose but also how the weight is displaced. Crow (Bakasana), flying splits (Eka Pada Koundinyasana), eight angle (Astavakrasana), flying pigeon (Eka Pada Galavasana), peacock (Mayurasana) and firefly (Tittibhasana) all need strong to sustain the pose. Arm balancing also asks us to use the counterbalance between the head and the pelvis to hold the pose for a duration.
Meditation is shown to develop the willpower region of the brain (source). Subtle body practices such as meditation, chanting, breathwork, and conscious rest are ways to observe our thought processes and rewire our brains to think differently.
Arm balancing requires that the inner thighs be strong to hug and lift the hips so the weight can shift to the hands. Muscular inner thighs, outer hips, and gluteal muscles will aid your arm balancing practice and help you hug in and up to ignite the deep core stabilizers for lift-off!
Using yoga blocks under the feet to help lift the hips is a great way to get into crow pose and other arm balancing postures. Having the hips higher than the shoulders will help you use gravity to shift forward into the arm balance in arm balancing poses. This uses less muscle and more counterbalancing to achieve the posture.
Eight Angle Pose for Beginners
In the Crazy Eights Tutorial, you’ll learn how to get into Surya Yantrasana (compass), Koundinyasana II (flying splits), and Astavakrasana (eight angle) with a crazy eights transition.
The tutorial works through modifications for beginners, intermediate, and advanced practitioners.
Watch the short clip to see how to get into Astavakrasana (eight angle) without lifting your hips from the ground.
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Tips for beginners:
Tuck your shoulder under one knee and hook your ankles.
Hug your inner thighs to your arm bone.
Press your sits bones on the ground and draw the belly in and up.
Press the fingerpads into the ground OR place your palms on blocks to get more space and height to lift the hips.
Stay here with your butt on the ground and extend the legs towards the sky, or hug the navel to spine and lean your chest forward as you draw your pelvis off the ground.
If you have wrist/shoulder sensitivity, you can still take the postures without lifting your hips from the ground to lessen the weight on the wrist joint.
The other option is to stay in Surya Yantrasana (compass) or Astavakrasana (eight angle) with your hips on the ground.
Crazy Eights Transitions
Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced
There are three kramas (options) suitable for practitioners at any level demonstrated in the Crazy Eights Transition Tutorial.
Watch the full 10-minute tutorial on the Practice with Clara Apps to see all three kramas in action!
Option 1. Beginners
This is a good alternative if you have wrist/shoulder sensitivity.
Come into lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) and grab the front of the back angle.
Take your shoulder behind your leg.
Place your palms back to support your lower body and legs OR forward to support the weight at the torso. The placement of the palms depends on the weight distribution and the body’s structure.
Reach the chest forward.
Hug the sits bones towards each other.
Step your back foot forward and release the palms to sit down.
Come into compass pose from the ground with one leg out on the floor, and the other leg hooked above the shoulder.
Bring your hands down to the ground and straighten the leg on the floor.
Hook the ankles and take the legs upward toward the sky.
Draw the navel to the spine and hover your bum off the ground for eight angle pose (Astavakrasana).
Option 2. Intermediate
Do the arm balance without the transitions.
Move from lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) into flying splits (Koundinyasana II).
Rest the thigh on top of your arm as you press your ribs to the tricep.
Lean the weight forward and extend the back leg off of the ground.
Step the legs forward and squat.
Compass pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana) into an eight angle pose (Astavakrasana).
Option 3. Advanced
Full crazy eights transition.
Move from lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana) into (Koundinyasana II).
Hug your legs inwards towards the middle of your mat.
Bring your chest low and your legs high.
Bend both knees.
Bring the back knee forward and through the front arm.
Lower your bum and lift your chest.
Hook your ankles and hug the inner thighs.
Eight angle pose (Astavakrasana).
A dynamic vinyasa practice with Koundinyasana II (flying splits), Astavakrasana (eight angle), and Surya Yantrasana (compass).
This class includes several waves with hamstring and hip opening, core and inner thigh strengthening, and leg balancing poses to prepare you for the peak poses.
** See how to make the crazy eight transition in the short tutorial.
To maintain your practice while dealing with back pain, check out the Yoga for Low Back Pain Playlist.
We recommend consulting a physician before you do postures that pose a risk of further injury.
To counter and neutralize the body after eight angle pose, including flying splits and compass pose, you want to release the muscles strained.
Muscles to release after Crazy Eights practice:
Hip flexors (psoas).
Adductors (inner thighs).
Plus, the muscles around the:
Frontline (shoulders, chest, abdominals, pelvis, quads).
Hands, wrists, forearms.
Energy Associated with Arm Balancing
To achieve arm balancing postures, drawing the energy inwards and upwards at the core is needed to lift the hips.
In yoga, drawing the energy in and up activates Mula Bandha.
Learn how to engage Mula Bandha in this blog post.
Hugging through the midline to activate the core strength and the inner leg line is required to balance the hands.
The third chakra, Manipura, at the solar plexus works with the will to power, inner fire and discipline, and harnesses the inner-line strength to hug in and lift off into arm balancing poses! The energy associated with the third chakra and the solar plexus is upward driving, fiery, assertive, and forthright.
Questions to sit with before/after arm balancing:
Where do I feel strong in my body?
How do I connect to my inner strength?
What do I do mentally to prepare for challenges?
Where do I feel/connect to the element of fire?
How do I feed my inner flame of passion/creativity?
How do I move through arduous situations?
What do I do when I feel out of sorts or off-balance?
What can I do to realign and center myself when I feel disconnected from my center, my source?
Do I face challenges head-on? Do I thrust myself forward or ease into it?
Where do I contract? Where do I expand?
How can I use the momentum I’ve gathered to assist me as I move?
What is my relationship to assertiveness?
What is my relationship to my Agni, aka the digestive fires?
Arm balances are one of the six families of poses in yoga.
As one of the featured postures in an Ashtanga/Vinyasa practice, arm balancing comes in many forms and is accessible to practitioners of all levels.
Play in Eight Angle Pose (Astavakrasana)
Develop your poses through creative and deliberate sequencing that strengthens, lengthens, and relieves the muscles needed to get in and out of peak postures.
Choose from three varied classes that are distinct in style, length, and level. The following three courses offer modifications for beginners and advanced practitioners.