Pointing in the right direction

After finally nailing Compass Pose, Victoria Jackson says her practice is moving in the right direction

Although it looks beautiful, I’ve never really cared for Compass Pose. Sure, it’s eye-catching on a magazine cover, but in real life it seems guaranteed to make the less flexible among us feel particularly inadequate. If you didn’t start out as a child ballerina, just how could an adult set of hips ever get into that position?

Early experiences probably didn’t help. When I asked a teacher how to do it, their quiet shrug spoke volumes about my inflexible beginner body. After that, it was a pose I avoided for years! Every now and then I wondered vaguely about prep poses, how to increase the range of motion in my hips, and what it would take to manoeuvre my knee behind my shoulder. I played with other shapes that felt a bit more accessible — Bird of Paradise, Side Angle and even a twisted wide straddle. I made some progress, but sadly all these prep poses, even the mouthful of Parivritta Upavista Konasana, remained frustratingly easier to say than to do!

But breakthroughs often happen unexpectedly. Compass Pose started to feel like a possibility for me not because of any extra careful prep work, nor the help of an experienced teacher nor a well-sequenced peak pose class.

It was just a warmish sunny day in the summer when I was playing around in my garden, not really a formal yoga practice at all.

Compass Pose was far from my mind — until it suddenly happened! A little wriggle of the shoulder and I found the basic form. Then firmly holding onto my foot I took a deep breath and exhaled deeply as I lengthened the leg up to the sky. Gone were all the anatomical uncertainties about stabilising the pelvis or opening the shoulder; gone were the beliefs that my hip could never flex this deeply or my hamstrings feel so stretchy.

Maybe it was the sunshine and the relaxed summer vibes, maybe it was an unexpected benefit of some physio work I’d been doing. In any case, since that day I’ve continued my exploration of Compass Pose with a bit more enthusiasm and optimism. Its alternative name — Sundial Pose — seems very fitting after my summer practice in the garden and will always remind me of that particular day and the excitement of figuring out an elusive pose. Whatever it’s called, Sundial or Compass, I now feel I’m pointed in the right direction.

Victoria Jackson lives and teaches yoga in Oxford. Visit: or find her on Instagram @victoriajacksonyoga

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.