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Hero Pose (Virasana) – Benefits, Form, Variations

Hero Pose (Virasana) – Benefits, Form, Variations

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2024-02-29


Hero pose is a good stretch and a useful position for meditation. It can take some practice to ease into this pose if you have tightness in your knees and thighs. It’s well worth well worth mastering this pose if you can do it safely and with your knees protected. If you have knee pain or injury, you might not be able to do this pose. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns. 

About Hero Pose (Virasana)

Virasana in Sanskrit means chief or hero pose. Hero pose is a kneeling pose that is good for the spine and provides a good quadriceps stretch. It’s also conducive to meditation and breathing exercises. 

While it looks awkward, most people find sitting in hero pose more comfortable than sitting cross-legged or in lotus pose. Virasana can be a little challenging initially if you have tight quads or knees. Ease into the pose slowly and safely to enjoy its benefits. 

What Are the Benefits of Hero Pose? 

If you are able to do hero pose safely, even with modifications, it can provide several benefits: 

  • Boost flexibility. Hero pose provides a good stretch across the thighs, especially in the quads. It also stretches and improves flexibility in the tops of the feet, ankles, and knees. It improves mobility in the joints. 

  • Improve posture. This pose can also help you build better posture. Correct form includes holding the spine upright over the hips. When you practice this regularly, your posture will improve in other areas of your life. 

  • Meditate comfortably. Many students of yoga struggle with lotus pose, an asana commonly chosen for meditation. It’s easier to sit upright and maintain good posture in hero pose, which makes for more comfortable meditations, especially over longer periods of time. Hero pose is also easier on tight hips than lotus pose. 

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How to Do Hero Pose

Hero pose looks deceptively simple. While this yoga pose has several benefits and is comfortable for most people, getting into hero pose can initially be challenging. Several aspects of modern life lead to tight quads, hips, and knees. Hero pose will help with this, but it’s important to go into the pose slowly and with good form.  

  • Start by kneeling on a mat on the floor with your thighs and knees touching, so there is no gap between your legs. 

  • Move your feet apart to a position just wider than your hips. 

  • Press the tops of your feet into the mat and point your feet straight back. They should not be turned in or out. 

  • Lower your hips down until you are sitting on the mat between your feet. You may need to use your hands to move your calf muscles out of the way to be able to get your butt all the way down to the floor. 

  • Sit upright with your spine straight and shoulders down and back. Lift the chest and lengthen the spine. 

If you are able to get into the full pose, sit for 5 to 10 breaths or about 30 seconds. Extend this time as you get more used to the pose and gain more flexibility in the legs, feet, ankles, and knees. 

To come out of hero pose, press your palms on the mat and lift your butt as you cross your ankles under your body. Sit back on the mat as you straighten your legs in front of you. 

Hero Pose and Knee Safety

The most common issue people have with hero pose is knee pain and discomfort. The extreme flexion of the knees in this pose can be difficult if you lack flexibility in the joints. If this pose causes knee pain, ease into it slowly and use appropriate modifications. 

This pose may not be safe for everyone without modifications. Some people should not do it at all. If you have a knee or ankle injury, do not do this pose. It may also irritate lower back pain. If your body does not feel right in hero pose, try modifications or don’t do it at all. 

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Modifications and Variations

Several modifications can make it easier to do hero pose if you have tightness or other limitations. Try variations to ease into the pose or to progress to the next challenge.  

Elevate the Hips

Tightness is a common issue that prevents many people from initially being able to get into full hero pose. The difficulty is typically in getting the butt all the way down to the floor. If this causes you too much discomfort or pain, sit on a block instead of the floor. As you build more flexibility, you can remove the block, use less support, and ultimately do the full pose.

Support the Knees and Ankles

Another useful modification is to place a yoga bolster or folded blanket behind the knees. This supports the knees by reducing flexion. With practice and increased flexibility, you may be able to remove the support. 

You might also experience some discomfort around the ankles in full hero pose. Place a folded blanket or cushion under the ankles to correct this.

Half Hero Pose

Another way to ease into hero pose is to do it with just one leg bent at a time. Place one leg into hero pose form, while letting the other leg extend straight in front of the body. This allows you to focus on one side at a time. You can also combine this with other modifications, like a yoga block to sit on or a towel behind the knee.

Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)

Once you feel comfortable in hero pose, consider progressing to the more challenging reclining hero pose (reclined hero pose), or supta virasana. This pose increases the stretch in the quads, ankles, and hip flexors

To do reclining hero, start in hero pose. Place your hands on the mat behind you and lower down until your forearms and elbows are on the mat. Keep leaning back and lowering the body until your upper back is on the mat. 

Raise your arms over your head and hold the elbows with opposite hands. Your spine should be curved and mostly lifted off the mat. Your chin will be gently tucked in. 

As with hero pose, it can take some time to work up to the full reclining position. Ease into it by staying up on your elbows until you feel flexible enough to lower all the way down. You can also continue to keep something under your seat for support if it helps. 

Level Up Your Education with ISSA

Hero pose and its variations is a great yoga pose for both flexibility and for focusing on a meditation or breathing exercise. Once you have mastered it, use hero pose for any time you need this type of stretch or need to be seated for an extended period of time. 

The ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy’s Yoga Alliance-approved 200-hour yoga teacher training program will help you break down hero pose and others, so you can get more out of it and teach others. 

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