What makes Ashtavakra’s story incredible is that he defied his father, and was punished, even before he was born. While still in the womb, he made corrections in his father’s recitation of verses from the Rig Veda. Insulted and angry, Astavakra’s father cursed him, and he was born with multiple disabilities. Astavakra’s name means eight(asta) crooked(vakra) angles of his limbs.
Despite his father’s cruel curse, Ashtavakra was a loyal son. When Ashtavakra was just a kid, his father was banished to the realm of Varuna (lord of death) upon losing a debate. Astavakra traveled a long distance alone to the king’s court to challenge the man who had beaten his father in the debate .
Because of Ashtavakra’s visual appearance, the people at court made fun of him, only until he started speaking and they realised he was incredibly knowledgeable and deeply insightful, even though he was just a boy. Ashtavakra won the debate and his father’s freedom, and the people in the court who mocked him became his disciples, including the king.
Ashtavakra’s story shows us the human tendency to judge people from their outer appearance rather than by what's their true nature. According to yoga instructor Aadil Palkhivala, “Astavakrasana appears to be very difficult, but actually, it’s one of the easiest of arm balances if you just know the technique. What the pose is trying to tell us is that even when things seem extremely convoluted, if you just know how to arrange them, your situation is not as arduous as it looks.” While some asanas are about pushing your body to its hard limits, some, like Astavakrasana, are actually designed to teach us to work smart. This asan teaches us that though working hard is important to achieve your goals, working smart is also crucial and both go hand in hand.