Compass pose is a seated pose found in yoga also known as revolved sundial pose. It can also be done standing but is mostly done seated. The standing version is a lot harder and requires a lot of flexibility. The seated version of compass also requires flexibility and balance.
Compass pose is a gentle pose that is usually seen in the warmup part of a yoga flow. The hips and hamstrings need to be sufficiently warmed up before the pose is done, which means the warm- up sequence will be a lot longer if compass pose is being done in the class.
The basics of compass pose
Compass pose is known as Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana in Sanskrit. The pose is targeted at opening the hips and stretching them, as well as the hamstrings. It requires a lot of flexibility in these areas and can be difficult to hold because of that. It requires not only flexibility but also balance and some strength.
The pose isn’t difficult to hold if a person is flexible and warmed their body up sufficiently. For most people, it is incredibly difficult to hold, which means it’s an advanced-level yoga pose. Flexibility is easy for some, but for most, it takes a lot of work and stretching to get flexible. This makes compass pose a fun and challenging pose to aspire to.
The benefits of practicing compass pose
The biggest benefits of practicing compass pose are the stretching into the hips and the hamstrings. The pose opens these areas and allows the body to stretch deeper within them and other poses. It’s a great preparatory pose for more flexible poses like the splits or birds of paradise pose.
Compass pose also stretches and opens the shoulders. Whilst doing this, it also gives a side body stretch and opens the chest area. This is good for the spine and can help to improve posture. The pose requires a lot of balancing, which is helpful in preparing the body for more challenging standing balances.
How to do compass pose
Step by step instructions for getting into the pose
- Begin in a cross-legged seat known as Sukhasana in Sanskrit. The legs are crossed, and the spine is lengthened.
- Start by picking up the right leg first and cradling it into your arms. The right knee will be on the inside part of the right elbow and the right foot will be on the inside part of the left elbow.
- Place your left hand on your right foot and use it to move your right shoulder underneath your right leg. Try to get the right shin on top of the right shoulder.
- From there, reach the right hand out to the right side. Come onto the right fingertips to help balance the body and push the right leg back more.
- With the left hand holding onto the right foot, slowly begin to straighten the right leg. The left shoulder should be plugged into the back and not rolling forward.
- Shift the gaze so that it’s looking up towards the ceiling and to your left arm. Use the right hand to push out of the floor and to help keep the spine lengthened. Try not to round into the back body too much.
- Remain here for 5-10 breaths. This is a deep stretching pose so it’s important to breathe deeply before gently releasing from the pose and going to the other side.
Common mistakes made when doing the pose
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to do compass pose is forcing themselves into the pose. They can often injure or hurt themselves trying to get into the pose. There’s never any need to force anything in yoga. Take it slowly and don’t push yourself too much.
Another mistake that people make when doing the pose is rolling onto one side too much. This can cause the body to lean too far and eventually fall over. Keeping the balance in this pose is vital to holding the pose. It also helps to prepare the body for standing balancing poses.
One of the best things a beginner can do when trying compass pose is to use a strap. Any strap will work, even a belt can work in this instance. Take the strap and place it over the foot that’s being cradled. Go through the steps to get into compass and when straightening the leg, it’ll be easier because of the strap.
Another helpful tip for beginners is to try doing the pose in short intervals. Breaking down the pose step by step and then holding it only for a few moments. This will make it easier over time to hold for longer.
Be very careful doing this pose. If any pain arises then slowly come out of the pose. Never push past the point of pain and don’t push your body to do anything that isn’t comfortable. Listen to your body and how it’s feeling. If someone is injured in their hips or hamstrings, then they shouldn’t be doing compass pose and should avoid it. Consult a doctor or physician before doing any physical exercise or trying out any yoga pose.
Variations of compass pose
A harder variation of compass pose would be a standing compass. This requires a significant amount of flexibility and balancing. Seated compass pose can be used as a warm-up and preparatory pose for this. The pose almost requires a full split from a person. Only those with a lot of flexibility can do this challenging variation of compass pose.
An easier variation of compass pose would be to do hand to big toe pose or seated forward fold. With hand to big toe pose, the hamstring stretch can be achieved, and then the foot can be taken out to the side to also open the hips. This is an easier way of stretching into the hips and hamstrings and receiving all the benefits of compass pose.