Virasana / Supta Virasana
- Begin by kneeling on the floor.
- Spread the feet just wide enough apart that your tush can fit between your heels. Keep the inner knees close together, and the tops of the feet flat on the floor. Try to bring your tush to rest on the floor.
- If your tush doesn’t hit the floor, just sit up straight and breathe into the pose. Don’t force your tush down – opening the hips is more important than getting down to the floor.
- If you feel discomfort in your knees, you can place a pillow or block under your bottom for support. If you feel discomfort in your feet, you can try rolling up the edges of your mat under your feet for more support.
- If you can sit in the pose comfortably with your bottom on the floor, you can begin to bend backward. Use your hands for support on the floor. Engage abdominal muscles to avoid overextending your back. If you’re flexible, you may be able to come down on your elbows or even flat on your back.
- Work on relaxing into the pose, remembering to breathe.
- Come back up to a seated kneeling position. Gently bring your legs around to a cross-legged position.
Hero pose works to stretch and open the knees, hips, and feet. The pose can improve digestion and relieve gas and the symptoms of menopause. The more advanced version adds a deep backbend, which is beneficial for spine health: when done properly, the pose can be helpful for sciatica and lower-back pain. Backbends are heart-opening poses, which decrease depression, improve functioning of the lungs, and improve posture.
Contraindications include heart problems. Students with knee or ankle problems may want to modify or avoid this pose. Those with back problems should avoid the backbending variation.
My Experience of Hero Pose:
Hero pose has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I liked the challenge of the pose and the stretch through hips and thighs. Over the years it’s been exciting to make progress in this pose – being able to sit my tush on the floor, to increase the backbend I was capable of, and eventually to lie on the floor with my arms extended. It was very satisfying to finally find a sense of ease in this challenging pose, to be able to lie back comfortably and just enjoy the stretch without being limited by pain or pressure. However, with my current schedule, I’ve had less time for yoga, which has led me to focus the time I do have on standing poses and meditation. I began to practice hero pose less frequently, and so I lost some of that flexibility that allowed me to relax deeply into the pose. My knees started to bother me, and I’ve had to work more gently and thoughtfully with the pose than I used to. It’s become a goal of mine to regain that former flexibility and ease and to maintain it as I get older.