Compass Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana)

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Compass Pose, Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana, (Par-ee-vrt-tah SUR-yuH Yan-truh-AHS-anah)

Parivrtta (revolved) + Surya (sun) + Yantra (instrument) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Revolved Sundial Pose

Pose Type: Balancing, Stretching, Seated

Difficulty: Advanced

  • a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing compass pose
  • a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing compass pose

This deep hip opener will challenge your flexibility in a whole new way.

Compass Pose Fundamentals

Compass Pose is a challenging yoga asana, which is perfect for yogis who find it exciting to advance in their physical practice. 

The asana is called Surya Yantrasana in Sanskrit, which translates to “sun instrument pose”. For this reason, it is also known as a Sundial Pose.

However, the shape is much more similar to that of a compass– and the symbology of a compass can also be closely related to the main goal of yoga. One of the primary reasons we are doing the poses is to find our inner “true north”, to meet our True Self, which is beyond the ego. 

Although both its symbology and shape are beautiful, in reality, this is an advanced and difficult pose. It is not for beginners, as it requires great flexibility in the hamstrings and shoulders.

Still, you can try to practice the pose without being able to perform the full expression of it. You will gain benefits if you keep your leg bent or do other modifications – and these variations are exactly what will lead you to one day being able to perform Compass Pose if you keep at it.

Approaching challenging poses in yoga isn’t here only to develop your performance – or to create a cool pic for social media. It also builds your patience, courage, confidence, and willpower.

Compass Pose & Energetics

For this reason, virtually any pose which is out of your reach, but you keep practicing helps you to grow in your Solar Plexus, the seat of confidence and inner power.

This pose also stimulates the Root and Sacral Chakras, helping you find a balance in the first three energy centers. 

Compass Pose Benefits

  • Stretches and lengthens the spine, back, shoulders, and hips.
  • Strengthens the core and arms.
  • Builds your sense of balance and stability, as well as focus and attention.
  • The opening of the spinal column can help you work on your posture.
  • The twist opens the intercostal muscles – the muscles around the ribs – which creates more space in the chest and may help you with breathing.
  • Helps you build your patience and body awareness, and teaches you to listen to your body and stay consistent, which helps you advance in your practice.
  • Compresses and massages the internal organs of the abdomen, which boosts digestion.
  • Increases blood circulation to the reproductive system, and relaxes the nervous system, bringing a sense of calm.
  • Since the pose is unique, it may help encourage those who get bored easily when exercising, and keep them excited about their practice- a great asana for teens!
an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing compass pose

How To Do Compass Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

  1. Begin sitting cross-legged in Easy Pose.
  2. Now lift your right knee, and bend it, hugging the thigh into your chest. Traditionally, the other leg stays bent on the floor, but you can also extend it if that helps with stability. 
  3. Grab your right foot with your left hand and lift it up. Place your right arm below your right knee, so that it is close to the shoulder. Place the right hand next to your right hip for stability.
  4. Take a moment to check your back – are you able to lengthen more? If you already find it difficult to stay upright, remain here.
  5. Otherwise, try to lift the right knee higher on the right upper arm. Then, grab the outer side of your right foot with the left hand.
  6. Use your hand to begin extending your right leg up – the left arm will naturally move behind your head.
  7. If you’re able, look towards the sky, and use every inhale to work on lengthening your spine.
  8. Hold for 3-5 breaths and release slowly. Take a moment in Staff Pose, then move to the other side. 

Tips And Tricks:

  • Perform Compass Pose later in the class as a peak pose. It is a challenging pose, and you will be able to go much further when you are warmed up. Perform a series of Sun Salutations, as well as other poses which open your chest, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings.
  • Engage your core and keep your spine lifted – if you are rounding too much, don’t go as deep in the pose.
  • Deepen the stretch by pushing the hips forward and lifting the chest.
  • Pressing the foot into the palm firmly will help you feel more stable.
  • Don’t force extending the leg – you are already doing a lot by just keeping the knee on top of the shoulder. Keep the knee bent instead, and work on the alignment of your spine.
  • In the full expression of the pose, the other leg is bent, but you can also extend it on the floor – this will help you if you have tight hamstrings. 

Compass Pose Variations:

Heron Pose

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing heron pose

There are many similarities between Heron and Compass Pose, and Heron is slightly easier. It is a fantastic preparatory pose as well as an alternative if you want to develop hamstring flexibility for Compass Pose. 

In classic Heron Pose, the leg that remains on the floor is in a kneeling position, but it might be more helpful to start from a cross-legged position if you’re working towards Compass

From there, keep one leg on the floor, and grab the foot of the other leg with both hands.

Stay tall and slowly tilt backward as you begin straightening the leg using your hands as resistance. Point the foot towards the sky.

If it’s difficult to hold the foot when extended, keep it slightly bent, hold the ankles instead of the foot, or use a strap.

Standing Compass Pose (Advanced)

This variation is for advanced practitioners who are able to enter the full expression of the compass pose. It is a variation of a standing split and will challenge your balance even further.

Begin in mountain pose. Shift your weight onto your right foot. 

Then lift your left leg and hold the thigh with both hands. Draw the shin close to your body, so it’s parallel to the floor, and begin to slide your arm under the left knee – as close to the shoulder as possible. 

Then lift your torso up, and if you struggle with balance, you can slightly bend the standing leg. 

Grab hold of the left foot with the right hand, and begin to extend it towards the sky. Extend the right arm to the side, and gaze towards the right. 

With A Strap

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing compass pose with a purple strap

If it’s difficult to straighten the leg while holding it – it may be due to you having shorter arms or tight hamstrings. But you can still try using a strap.

While your foot is still on the floor, create a small with your strap, so it can fit your foot. Leave it on the floor, close to your reach, then place your arm on your shoulder. 

When your leg is lifted, place the foot into the loop.

Hold the strap with the opposite arm, at a length that still creates resistance. Then begin extending your leg – you can adjust where you hold the strap when your leg is lifted. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Rolling backward. Beginners will roll their weight back too much in an attempt to enter the pose. However, this may lead you to lose balance, and will also lead to rounding your spine. If you feel you need to do this, practice an easier modification instead to develop the flexibility needed for a full Compass pose. 

Going too far too soon. Students will sometimes force getting into the pose, which will compromise the alignment and may lead to injury. Instead, use the pose to develop your patience, and stop when you feel a stretch but are still able to maintain good form.

Injuries and Conditions

Avoid the pose if you recently injured or had undergone surgery in the groins, arms, shoulders, legs, neck, hips, abdomen, and knees. Also refrain from the pose if you experience dislocation in the shoulders or hips, or if you suffer from sciatica and slipped disc.

Pregnant women should also avoid the pose as it presses a lot of pressure on the abdomen. 

Related Poses

Standing Splits

Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose

Heron Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Crescent Lunge

Half Splits

Side Angle Pose

Fire Log Pose

Counter Poses:

Seated Forward Bend Pose

Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose

Knees To Chest Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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