Finding Your Way to Seated Compass Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana)

Seated Compass Pose, also referred to as Sundial Pose (Parivrtta = revolved, Surya = sun, Yantra = instrument) is a simultaneously grounding and expansive yoga posture with powerful energetic effects. Rich in symbolism, the pose uses the body as an instrument to guide us back home.

This intermediate/advanced yoga posture requires equal parts strength and flexibility. Several areas of the body need to be warm and open before moving into this pose. Teachers will often sequence an entire class to peak in Sundial Pose, progressively opening the hips, groins, hamstrings, shoulders and side bodies.

The good news is, this pose is built in clear, preparatory stages with a handful of different options for beginners, including using a strap to bridge the gap between foot and hand for those with tighter shoulders and hamstrings. Working all of the actions required in Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (Parvritta Janu Sirsasana) is an excellent precursor to Sundial Pose.

Getting Into Compass Pose

  1. Start seated in a cross-legged position. Place the sole of your right foot on the floor, leaving your left foot where it is, and hug your right knee into your chest.
  2. Lengthen your right arm along the inside of your right knee and grab hold of the outside of your right foot. With your left hand behind you for support, lean back as you lift your right foot off the floor until the sole of your foot is facing the front of the room, shinbone parallel to the floor.
  3. Holding onto the outside of the right foot with your right hand, flex your foot as you pull the right foot and knee straight back alongside the outer right ribs.
  4. Flex your left foot as well, and firm your left inner thigh down to lengthen up through the spine. Then raise your left arm up and across your chest, reaching over the top of your right foot to grab the outer edge of that foot with your left hand.
  5. With the left hand holding the right foot, release the right hand down to the floor beside your right hip with your right arm inside and under your right leg.
  6. Leaning onto your left hip, pull your right knee further back with your left hand and swing the leg higher up and over your right shoulder (as though you were throwing a purse over your shoulder).
  7. Pause and take a deeper inhale. With your left hand griping your outer right foot lean more into your right hand now, and begin to straighten your right leg, pushing your right foot into your left hand, on the exhale.
  8. As you begin to straighten your right leg, simultaneously pull back with your left hand, bringing the left arm behind your head, and turn your chest, belly and gaze to the left, looking up under your left armpit.

To release re-bend the extended top knee, remove your right arm out from underneath your right leg and release the foot to the floor.

Common Misalignments in Compass Pose

Two major misalignments commonly occur during Sundial Pose – the front body slumps down, rounding the spine and low back, and/or the bottom shoulder is forced forward, straining the neck and muscles of the rotator cuff.

To protect your low back, continue to press the grounded thigh bone firmly down, extending your spine up as you attempt to straighten the top leg.

The lifted leg will inevitably push the bottom shoulder forward as you extend the leg straight. Therefore it is extremely important to strongly press the bottom shoulder back into the leg to maintain shoulder integration.

Other key alignment tips: Keep the bottom leg active, flexing the pinkie toe of your grounded foot and engaging the ankle muscles. Also keep pulling your top hand back into the lifted foot through the arm bone, wrapping your top shoulder blade into the back ribs. Lastly, press the base of your skull back, preventing hyperextension in the neck.

Stages and Variations of Parivrtta Surya Yantra

For those with tighter hips — getting your leg up and over your shoulder is a huge accomplishment. Heck, just lifting the foot off the earth and bringing the shinbone parallel to the floor is a pretty big feat. Spend time there.

Holding onto the outside of your right foot with your right hand, lean back onto the support of your left hand on the floor and rock the lifted leg forward and back. Work on bringing your knee back into the space along side your right ribs. Once the knee can pull back beyond your ribs, you’re ready to position the leg up and over your shoulder.

Once you’re able to lift the leg over your shoulder and hold onto the lifted foot with the opposite hand, it may take several breaths, several attempts or several years to straighten the top leg and revolve the torso. And that’s okay. Be patient with your body as you ask it to expand.

Also, instead of bending the bottom knee out to the side you can straighten that leg out in front of you, freeing up the top hamstring just a bit.

Whatever form your Compass Pose takes, allow yourself to enjoy the ride and see where this fun yoga posture leads you. Often our emotional experience as we attempt these poses can be our greatest guide.

Meagan McCrary is an experienced yoga teacher (500 ERYT) and writer with a passion for helping people find more comfort, clarity, compassion and joy on the mat and in their lives. She is the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga a comprehensive encyclopedia of prominent yoga styles, including each system’s teaching methodology, elements of practice, philosophical and spiritual underpinnings, class structure, physical exertion and personal attention. Currently living in Los Angeles, Meagan teaches at the various Equinox Sports Clubs, works privately with clients and leads retreats internationally. You can find her blog, teaching schedule and latest offerings at, as well as on Facebook.

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