How to Do Sleeping Vishnu Pose (Anantasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Reclining Vishnu Pose, Vishnu's Couch Pose

Targets: Balancing

Level: Intermediate

The name of Sleeping Vishnu Pose and its appearance are misleading because it's really quite a challenge to stay balanced on the knife's edge of your side without tipping over. It's a nice addition to any practice because it forces you to stabilize yourself in a way that your body and your mind are not used to. It provides a stretch to your hamstrings and inner thighs as well. Have a strap handy if those are areas of tightness for you. You can practice this pose when working on balance or on relieving tight muscles.


This pose improves balance and stretches the hamstrings, inner thighs, and calves. Working on balance and core strength are important parts of any yoga practice. While yogis do a lot of standing balances and even arm balances, balancing on your side is pretty rare and offers a really different experience. Better balance will help you throughout your daily life in avoiding injury due to trips and falls. Tight hamstrings and calves are common for runners and those in sports that involve running.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin by lying on your back.
  2. Stretch your right arm to the back of your mat. Roll over onto your right side. Your head will rest on your upper arm.
  3. Bend your right arm and lift your head. Bring your right hand to cup and support the side of your head where it feels comfortable.
  4. Flex both feet. Keep them flexed throughout this pose.
  5. Try to keep your whole body in one line from elbow to heels. Don't tip forward or backward.
  6. Bend your left knee and take hold of the big toe with your left hand in a yogi toe lock. (This may be where things get really tippy.)
  7. Straighten your left leg toward the ceiling as much as possible.
  8. Maintain your balance on your side without rolling by firmly rooting your thigh bone and upper arm into the ground for stability.
  9. Release your toe and roll to your back. Repeat the pose lying on your left side.

Common Mistakes

This is an intermediate pose, so don't be surprised that while it looks easy, it really is for those a bit more advanced. Use modifications as needed until you are ready.

Modifications and Variations

As with most yoga poses, you can change this pose to make it more accessible or to deepen it, depending on your practice level.

Need a Modification?

If you're really tipping a lot, skip step 3 where your prop your head up with your hand. Keep your arm down on your mat with your cheek resting on your arm instead.

If it's difficult for you to straighten your left leg, you have a few options. You can keep the leg bent, but it's easier to balance if you straighten the leg using a strap. Make a loop in the strap and slide it to the ball or instep of your left foot. Hold the strap in your left hand and straighten your leg, using the strap to give yourself as much extra arm length as you need.

You can use bolsters to prop your back or place the sole of your extended foot against a wall to provide balance.

Up for a Challenge?

If you have the flexibility, you can bring your left leg beyond the vertical position. Draw your left knee toward your left ear while maintaining your balance.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have pain or injury to your neck, shoulders, or back. If you feel any sharp pain during this pose, gently release it.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.