Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana: Compass or Sundial Pose

Pose of the Month:  Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana: Compass or Sundial Pose  

Writing & Model: Chrisandra Fox

Photography: Faern, faernworks.com

In the Vedas, Moksha refers to the soul’s “release” or liberation from bondage to samsara, or the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

The Yoga tradition teaches that samsara includes the continuous flow of life’s daily experiences – the daily roller coaster ride of passion, emotions, desire and experience. And moksha is freedom from getting rocked on the ride.

The roller coaster is the small births and the deaths we experience daily. These represent hopes and the loss of hope.

I hope I can get my foot behind my head today.

I’ll never get my foot behind my head!

Yoga provides a skillful means for gradually and consistently recognizing these cycles, and interrupting their unconscious repetition. Yoga strengthens the capacity to abide in the fiery center of the ups and downs.

When you take a long journey, you bring a GPS, or, in the old school, a compass. Yoga is this tool, this inner sense of knowing which step to take next, the stability to dwell in that knowing and the courage to change direction when we’ve gone off course.

To live in moksha is to live the life we are living now fearlessly, with purpose and success. Many of us benefit from having a compass.

This month’s pose, Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana honors and celebrates the process of unfolding moksha in this lifetime.

A beautiful hip opener, sidebend and twist, Compass Pose asks us to be both steady and inspired to fearlessly unwind our tendencies and perceived limitations.

This pose is challenging. But if we are willing to look honestly through the body into our hearts, we can “see” where we truly are and skillfully redirect our inner knowing to the goal.

Beyond hopes, beyond loss of hope.

The Pose

Sit in Dandasana. Bend your right leg and place your heel near your left sitting bone. Bend your left leg in toward your chest. Draw your left knee back toward the left side of your ribcage.

Take a few breaths here, balancing your weight on both sitting bones, and coaxing your thighbone to externally rotate in the hip socket.

Now, nestle your left leg behind your left elbow. Work slowly to bring the back of your left knee or thigh up high on your arm and toward the back of your shoulder. Cultivate a smooth rhythm in your breath.

Once you’ve found a landing spot for the back of your left leg, lean forward, and slide the back of your shoulder in a little more snug. Then, take hold of the pinky-toe side of your left foot with your right hand. You can use a strap for this.

Reach your left arm out beyond your left leg and shift your weight into your right sitting bone. Lean off your right hip, soften your left side body.

Ground your weight into your right sitting bone and left hand, and continue to soften and melt any resistances in your left side waist with a smooth and rhythmic flow of your breath.

Move your inner left thigh away from your chest to widen the back of your left leg and to help you straighten it. Press through the sole of your left foot and continue to widen the back of your left leg. Now, turn the center of your chest – your spiritual heart – and ribcage to the right.

This pose can be more of a lateral pose, or side-bend, or open-belly twist, depending on which way your direct your inner compass.

In whichever orientation you’ve chosen, stabilize your balance through grounding your right sitting bone and right leg. You can vary the intensity by pressing your weight evenly through both sitting bones and bowing your right ribcage, widening your right side body.

Slow your breathing. Keep your eye gaze steady and soft as you deepen into your steady point of balance and open through your torso.

If your hamstrings are tight, be honest with that and work with a strap, or keep your knee bent. Remember, the path of liberation is long, sometimes slow and steady. Enjoy each moment of turning your compass. Be guided by your sense of grounding toward the earth and soaring toward your greatest aspiration of freedom.

  • Chrisandra Fox is pursuing a yogic path of liberation and shares these practices in 5 weekly classes at Yoga Tree. She is a primary teacher in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training and leads The Heart of Renewal Retreats. 
  • Faern is an Artist, yoga practitioner and Photographer in San Francisco. Besides making as much time for tea as possible, you can find Faern in a yoga class, at her current art show or wandering the city via public transportation. You can visit her in various places online: FaernWorks website, Twitter, Facebook, Faern in the Works Blog.
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