Definition - What does Astavakra mean?

Astavakra is the name of a revered Vedic sage, well known in Hinduism and yoga. His name comes from the Sanskrit root words asta, which means “eight,” and vakra, which means “bent.” It is said that Astavakra was named in this way because he was born disabled, with a crippled body that was bent in eight places after being cursed by his father.

Despite his disability, Astavakra built a great reputation as a spiritual teacher, and eventually became a teacher to King Janaka. He is still known today for the yoga posture named after him, astavakrasana.

Yogapedia explains Astavakra

Relatively little is known about Astavakra’s life or the exact time in which he lived, except the legends which are presented in the Indian epics and the Purunas. However, Astavakra is thought to be the author of the Astavakra Gita, a text whose name means "song of Astavakra". It explores the nature of existence and individual freedom, teaching that there is only one Brahman, or Supreme Reality, and everything is interconnected. Thus, individual freedom is not the end point, but an innate starting point that is inherent in all beings.

Astavakra’s teachings were also reminders that a person’s soul is deeper and more valuable than their superficial appearance.

The pose devoted to him, Astavakrasana, is considered by some who practice it to be a lesson in focusing on the internal work of the posture, rather than on achieving an aesthetically perfect asana.

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