Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana, or Compass Pose, is a challenging seated posture that requires considerable length in the hamstrings, side body, and shoulders in order to gracefully reach the foot without feeling like a hot, tangled mess.
But just because Compass Pose may feel unachievable on your first attempt, does not mean you should shy away from working towards the amazing benefits this asana offers.
The journey towards Compass Pose requires commitment and patience. It gives even the most advanced yogi opportunities to learn and develop physically, mentally, and spiritually along the way.
Preparing the body for Compass Pose requires stretching through the hamstrings and groin in poses like half or full splits, Heron Pose or supine hamstring stretches. Lengthening in these areas can help to reduce lower back pain and allow for more fluid movement in the lower body.
The hip opening needed to move into the full expression of this pose can be created through the practice of Happy Baby, Lizard Pose, and Twisted One Legged Dog.
Hip openers are so good for us because there are over 20 muscles that cross the hips. Lengthening these muscles allows us to complete basic tasks more freely (like squatting down to pick something off the floor) and reduces our likelihood of overusing and straining through the back.
Length in the obliques and movement in the shoulders can be worked towards through Gate Pose, Bound Half Moon Pose, and Revolved Seated Wide Angle Pose. Lengthening the obliques helps the spine to rotate and move more freely. This creates better posture and alignment through the whole body. Reducing tension in the shoulders can help with tension headaches, stress, and also helps to improve overall posture.
Like all yoga poses, the greatest lessons come from the journey rather than in simply being able to perform the asana on our first attempt. The challenge of moving into Compass Pose teaches us extreme patience as it may take many months (or even years) to find enough opening to move into the final expression of the posture with the leg fully extended and spine rotated.
As we slowly work to prepare our body for this pose we are reminded that the present moment is all that we truly have. No amount of pushing and forcing will allow our body to open any faster, just as no amount of wishing or hoping will help us to create momentum in other areas of our lives.
The journey to Compass Pose, therefore, reminds us that it is consistent action, no matter how small, that actually helps us to reach our goals.
All yoga poses help us to explore spiritual aspects of ourselves when we give them our full attention on the mat.
Challenging postures, however, often require even more spiritual inquiry as they demand that we delve into the darker aspects of ourselves when difficulties arise. We are challenged to examine our lack of patience, our tendency towards comparison, perhaps even our negative self talk on the journey towards opening the body enough for Compass Pose.
Energetic shifts can also be felt when practicing the physical poses, and Compass is no different. Extreme opening in the hips often encourages the release of negative feelings and unexpressed emotions which can feel scary at first.
However, creating space in this area can help us to start to let go of our need for control over all aspects of our lives, freeing up space for creativity and expression.
Most importantly, Compass Pose has the power to teach us complete acceptance. At some point we may need to accept that our particular body shape and structure may never reach the full expression of Compass Pose, and be okay with that.
After all, at the end of the day it’s not about making the shapes; it’s the lessons we learn about ourselves on the path towards them that matter.
What benefits of Compass Pose have you found in your own practice? Share them with us in the comments below!