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Step-By-Step Breakdown: Compass

Find Your North and South

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Looking to open your hips, shoulders, and hamstrings? Maybe get a good oblique stretch while you are at it? Then compass pose is a one-stop shop for you. Just like any other pose in yoga, the goal is not to get there—it is to enjoy the journey. Relish each new opening as it happens; be present to notice when a different part of you decides to let go—the process is amazing!

When playing around with compass, take time to do all of the prep poses and open your body up so that when it is ready to find north and south in compass, it will. (Or maybe it will find south and northeast—it doesn’t matter!) Don’t worry about straightening out your limbs— they will get there when they are good and ready. Enjoy the exploration.

Prep: Wide-Legged Runner's Lunge

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From a lunge with right foot forward, take both hands inside of right foot, moving right foot just a bit over to the right. Tap left knee down and start to reach hips back toward left heel, lengthening right leg. Try to relax and fold inside of right thigh. (If this is too intense on the hamstring, bend knee until muscles can relax.) Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the left.

Prep: Ankle to Knee

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Sitting upright, take right shin parallel to the front of the mat and stack left shin directly on top of and in line with it, keeping feet flexed to protect knees. (If knees and ankles don’t touch, place blankets in between them.) Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat with left shin on the bottom.

Prep: Lizard

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From down dog, lift right leg high to down dog split, open hip, bend knee, and step right foot outside of right hand. Tap left knee to the ground and, if it feels good, gently lower forearms to the ground. Breathe here for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on left side.

Prep: Reclined Hand-to-Foot

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Lie face-up and hug right knee in toward chest. Either take hold of right big toe with right thumb and peace fingers in yogi-toe-lock or grab the outer edge of right foot or thigh and start to lengthen leg long, gently pulling foot in the direction of head. (Keep knee bent if this is too intense.) Breathe here for five deep breaths, then repeat on the left.

Prep: Wide-Legged Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener

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Start in standing forward fold with feet just wider than hip-width apart (if feet are too wide, it is difficult to reach). Take hold of left ankle or shin with right hand, and cross left arm over right and take a hold of right ankle or shin. Soften through elbows and knees and start to bend left elbow, poking head underneath left shoulder. Lean back and breathe for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the right.

Shin Cradle

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Now you’re ready and warmed up for compass. Sit on the ground with left leg long in front of you, round spine a bit, and take right knee into right elbow and right foot into left hand. If there is more space, wrap arms around shin and slowly, as it feels good, bring spine upright. Breathe for 5 deep breaths. (If you want to rock shin left to right like rocking a baby, that is also great to loosen up the hip joint.) Repeat with right leg long and left shin cradled.

Shoulder Under Knee, Foot Hold

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From shin cradle, take right hand to right ankle, and take left hand over and to the outer edge of right foot. Round spine and wiggle right shoulder underneath right knee. Start to lengthen spine as it feels good, and breath for 3 deep breaths. Repeat on the left.


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From there, release right hand to the ground, fingertips facing away from you, soften right elbow as much as you want, and start to poke head under left shoulder (the same as you did in forward fold during the prep). Start to lengthen right leg to any degree that feels good, and breathe there for 5 deep breaths. You did it! Now repeat on the left.

Photos: Vera Boykewich