Challenge Pose: Compass (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana)

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Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana is often referred to as Compass or Sundial Pose. I love the image of molding my body into a tool of guidance, especially one used when you’re lost and need to find your way back home. If I’ve learned anything at all from my years of practicing yoga, it’s that I already have my own built-in navigational system. My body and spirit knows exactly where I’m going. And when I find myself “lost,” I try to remember that when stumbling through the woods not knowing which way is which, it’ll just take some time before the path out becomes illuminated and I find my way back home.

It’s a similar feeling to practicing advanced yoga postures–sometimes they feel so far fetched that you don’t even know where to begin. It’s like being lost in a sea of randomly placed limbs without a “how-to assemble” kit. When you reach that faraway place, don’t panic! We’ve all been there. Just remember the feeling isn’t permanent. In fact, perhaps there is something rather useful to learn in these shadowy places before we come back into the sunshine. Use this posture to practice finding a sense of home even when you’re far from it, comfort when it’s all foreign, and a guiding light even in the darkest places.

Step One: Hook a Toe


Position yourself about one-leg-plus-some-change away from a wall. Bend your right knee and assist the sole of the foot onto the wall until the leg can wiggle straight. Rotate from deep within the hip socket, taking the heel forward and the toes back to open the leg. Draw the right hip down to even out through the waist. Stabilize your stance by keeping your left hand on your left hip. Hook your right big toe with your right index and middle fingers and thumb. Soften the base of the neck and slide the tips of the shoulder blades down. Take 8 full breaths. Bend the knee and give yourself a small kick to exit away from the wall or enter directly into step two.

Step Two: You Dropped Your Keys

Continue on from step one by releasing the big toe but keeping the same stance in the legs. Lean the torso slightly forward, reaching the right arm down and to the inside of the right thigh. Extend energy through the arm as if you dropped your keys and they’re just out of reach. Reach the left arm straight up, rotate the palm in and extend the arm towards the right foot. If you can reach the foot, grab hold of the pinky edge and use this leverage to revolve the chest open. Broaden the collarbone and keep the gaze down to protect the neck. Take 8 breaths. Release the top foot, micro-bend the top knee and slight kick to come away from the wall. Switch sides.

Step Three: Wind Your Clock

Grab a belt and take a seat. Bend the left knee drawing the heel in towards the groin. Bend the right knee and externally rotate the hip open. Cradle your right shin by taking the crook of the right elbow around the right knee and the crook of the left elbow into the sole of the right foot. Work the shin as parallel to the ground as possible, bringing the foot toward the left shoulder to help open the hip. Stay here to further open the pelvis or begin the hook the leg behind the shoulder. Grabbing the sole of the right foot with both hands, gently push the right knee out to the side, then, with a boost from under the calf, lift the leg higher up the shoulder. Continue this process of pushing the hip out and then up until you can’t go any further. Create a foot-size loop in the belt and place it over the top of the right foot, and hold the strap with your left hand. Place the right fingertips onto the ground far enough away from the hips so that the arm can be straight. Hug the inner right thigh tight to the midline to avoid slipping as you simultaneously begin to straighten the right leg. Give yourself as much slack in the strap as needed in order for the shoulder to remain in its socket. Spin the chest open and take a few deep breaths.

Step Four: Time to Shine!


Repeat the work of step three but lose the strap. Once you’ve managed to snuggle the right leg as far as it will comfortably go up the shoulder, place the right fingertips on the ground, creepy-crawling them out to the right so there is s slight tilt to the trunk of the body and the right arm is straight. Reach the left arm up, externally rotating with a bent elbow to grab the pinky edge of the right foot. Use some of the arm strength to draw the right leg toward straight, bobbing the head through the gateway of the arm so you can revolve the neck and gaze up past the left bicep. Revolve the rib cage open and soften the base of the neck. Smile! Shine! Don’t forget to breathe! Now, repeat on the other side …

Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, writer, philanthropist, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen + Yoga Journal blogger, foodie, and lover of her dog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook or on her website.