Compass Pose, sometimes called Sundial Pose, combines a deep hip, hamstring, and shoulder opener to create one awesome asana.
This yoga pose isn’t for the beginner practitioner or the unadventurous. If you are an experienced yogi with an adventurous spirit, then this pose can provide an amazing end of practice stretch.
Thanks to the wonders of GPS, we don’t require a compass very often these days. I think the last time I used one was when I learned about orienteering to earn my Junior Camper Badge in Girl Scouts. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, then you may have never used one before.
New technology aside, a compass is one of the most important navigational tools. It uses the Earth’s magnetic field to show the cardinal directions, and helps you to find your bearings.
This pose is named after the compass as the shape of the pose loosely resembles the face of a compass, with your leg acting like the directional needle.
How to Warm Up for Compass Pose
Compass Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana) works great as a peak pose or at the end of class when your muscles are warm and stretched. Flow through several side bends, hamstring stretches, and inner leg and groin openers to prepare your body.
Don’t skip the warm-up!
To glide into Compass Pose, your practice should include at a minimum:
- Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
- Bound Side Angle (Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- Bird of Paradise (Svarga Dvijasana)
- Half or Full Splits (Hanumanasana)
- Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
- Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
- Heron Pose (Krounchasana)
- Cradle the Baby (Hindolasana)
Here’s Your Step-by-Step Guide to Access Compass Pose:
Ready to give this fun pose a try? Follow this step-by-step yoga pose tutorial.
1. Find Your Footing
Let’s try it:
- Start in Easy Seat (Sukhasana)
- Sit up tall and activate your core for support and balance
- Gather your right leg to your body as you would in Cradle the Baby
- Adjust your left leg as needed so your left foot is close to your groin
2. Set Your Bearing
Let’s try it:
- Keeping your knee bent, grab your right foot with both hands
- Carefully pull your right leg back, sending your knee to the side and behind your right shoulder
- Thread your right arm though the space between your right leg and left hand, brining it in front of your right hamstrings
- Snuggle your right shoulder underneath your right knee
- You can think of this as putting your right leg around your right shoulder like a backpack strap
- Wiggle your leg up as high as you can over your shoulder
- Extend your right arm until your hand reaches the ground for support
- Bring your right hand as far back as you can, stopping once it’s in line with your hips
3. Take the Journey
Let’s try it:
- Readjust your left hand so that it grabs the top of your right foot with your fingers, wrapping around the pinkie toe side
- Alternatively, you can grab your big toe with your first two fingers to create a bit more space to move into the pose
- Keeping hold of your foot, slowly straighten your right leg
- Depending on how high your knee was over your shoulder, your leg may extend toward the sky or on diagonal
- Lift your left elbow up, bringing it overhead and then slightly behind your head as you extend your leg
- Rotate your chest to the left slightly to find a bit more opening
- Most of your weight will transfer into your left sitting bone
- Work to keep your spine long and chest lifted
- Check your shoulder placement – you want them in a natural position instead of jammed up toward your ears
- There’s no set gaze point (drishti) for Compass Pose, so some common options are looking overhead roughly in line with your elbow or looking toward the horizon past your extended leg
- Try a few focus points and settle on one that helps you feel stable
- Take several breaths, trying to find a bit more length, stretch, and openness as you embody the pose
- Slowly release the pose, and return to Easy Seat before trying the other side
Here’s How to Modify Compass Pose:
If you’re having difficulty extending your leg, feeling cramped, or having trouble finding your breath in the pose, then try Compass Pose with a strap.
1. Use a Yoga Strap
Let’s try it:
- Set up the same as you do above
- Instead of grabbing your right foot with your left hand, loop a yoga strap (or belt) around the foot and grab the belt as close to your foot as you can
- As you extend your leg, slide your hand down the strap as much as needed
2. Try a Different Shape
This seated yoga pose is challenging, but it should feel good. You’re seeking a good stretch and shoulder opening once in the pose.
If you’re feeling strained, or like something is about to pop, then come out of the pose and try Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose instead.
Find Direction With Compass Pose
One of the things I love about Compass Pose is that it looks so different on everyone. Some yogis have their leg pointing almost due north, while others have it pointing more northeast.
Some easily get their top arm well behind their head, and others use a strap to find the most opening and comfort.
These differences really embody both the name of this pose, and yoga practice in general. The time we spend on our mats isn’t about finding or making the perfect shape.
The time we spend on our mats isn’t about finding or making the perfect shape.
Rather, it’s about finding our breath, managing stress, staying healthy, and giving us tools to use off the mat so we can better focus on the direction we want our lives to take.
We’re all on different journeys, and seeking different destinations and goals. When we get lost along the way, a compass can help us find our way back. Likewise, when our life seems to be spinning and we lose sight of what’s important, taking some time on the mat can help us to find our direction again.
Use this guide to help you try Compass Pose next time you are stretched and ready for it. But remember, this pose is just part of the yoga journey, not the final destination.