Vatayanasana (Horse Face Pose) registers as 11* on the 60* scale of difficulty.
Like Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, Vatayanasana requires very different things from each side of the body. On the left side, your hip must be open to place your leg in half lotus. On the right side, your ankles must be extremely flexible in order to ground your kneeling leg and achieve greater balance. Iyengar explains that Vatayanasana looks like the face of a horse. To me, Vatayasana looks like two faces: two sides of the body, each entirely unique and utterly challenging.
As you can see, I struggle with this pose. I lack the openness in my left hip necessary to keep my left leg in lotus without sneaking my right hip point back. Jutting my right hip out to the side draws my entire lower back toward the right, compressing my right side body and throwing my spine out of alignment.
Iyengar states that in Vatayanasana “The hip points receive proper circulation of the blood and minor deformity in the hips and thighs is corrected. The pose is also good for stiffness in the sacroiliac joint.” If, however, like me, you can’t keep your right hip drawn under you, your hips won’t receive proper circulation and you might actually compress your right sacroiliac (SI) joint.
So, what to do? Work up to Vatayanasana through poses like Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana that prepare you to keep one leg in lotus while performing a very different type of action with the other leg. Garudasana can also help you keep your hip points in line with each other and stretch and strengthen your ankles and calves in preparation for the extreme kneeling position of your right leg. Explore Vatayanasana with care and, as always, listen to the wisdom residing within your body.