HOW TO PRACTICE Hero Pose IN YOGA (Virasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Hero Pose
Hero Pose (Sanskrit name: Virasana) is a great yoga pose to soothe tired legs at the end of the day. For some yoga students, especially those whose hip joints easily internally rotate, it is easier to maintain a neutral, upright spine in Virasana than in Sukhasana (Easy Pose). This makes Virasana an ideal alternative meditation pose for people who struggle with sitting cross-legged.
There are several ways to modify Hero Pose to make it easier on the knees. Check out the Teaching Tips Tab to discover the modifications that can make this yoga posture accessible to just about anyone.
Benefits of Hero Pose
Virasana stretches the quadriceps and hip flexors (in the reclining version of the asana), making it a good counter balance to sitting for long stretches. The arches of the feet and ankles also get a decent stretch if they are positioned correctly. Hero Pose, especially in its reclining variation, can relieve gas and help alleviate other intestinal issues. Practicing Virasana can also support circulation in the legs and feet.
Yogis who cannot sit in cross-legged position will find that Hero Pose invites them to sit more upright, especially in the area of the lumbar spine that might otherwise tend to round. When the spine is erect and all of its curves are in harmonious rhythm, both the movements of the diaphragm and activation of the core become more accessible. This makes Hero Pose a good choice for breathwork and Pranayama practice.
The reclined version of the yoga pose, called Supta Virasana, can add elements of spinal extension and a stretch to the rectus abdominus. Arm variations in this position can add elements of chest expansion. By proper internal rotation of the thighs and extension of the hips in this position, some yogis can find relief from low back pain. That said, yoga students whose bodies are not prepared for this more extreme version of the pose can exacerbate low back and SI-joint issues.
Basic Hero Pose
- Start with at least two blankets and a block handy. Come to Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose) on your yoga mat or other padded surface.
- Separate your knees about an inch, and separate your feet a little wider than hips-width apart.
- Reach your hands back and press them into your calf muscles. Press your calves down toward the ground.
- Keep pressing as you slide your hands back toward your heels and sit your hips down between your ankles.
- If your hips do not easily reach the floor, make sure that you place something—a yoga block, a rolled blanket, a bolster or a combination of these—under your hips. You should be able to sit comfortably on your support with no discomfort in your knees. If you feel as if you are “hovering” over your support, add some more height under your buttocks until you are completely supported.
- The same is true if you feel any discomfort in your knees. Place a yoga block lengthwise between your feet, and a rolled-up blanket under your hips. Add another blanket if you still feel discomfort. Keep adding blankets until you can sit comfortably. If you are unable to prop yourself enough to alleviate knee discomfort, do not practice this pose.
- Relax and breathe deeply. Stay for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- To leave the yoga posture, lift up and move back into Tabletop Pose. From here, it can be helpful to push back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) to begin to straighten your knees.