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How to do Hero Pose (Virasana) in Yoga 

Deepen your asana routine with this nothing-short-of-heroic kneeling posture.

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Last Update on 28th July 2022

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Hero Pose or Virasana is one of the most commonly used kneeling poses in yoga, pranayama, and meditation. It has several variations, the most famous being the reclining variation (Supta Virasana) and restorative variations using chairs, benches, bolsters, and blankets.

Everyone should practice the Varjrasana family of yoga poses, especially Virasana. It’s one of the more accessible poses to stretch the psoas muscles and arches of the feet. But while it may look simple, the internal rotation of the thighs needed to pull it off is, well, nothing short of heroic.

 

Don’t be quick to judge. There are a handful of reasons to incorporate it into your yoga practice.

“Kneeling poses are a better choice for beginners,” explains Jenna Dowell, a yoga instructor, and physical therapist. “It’s easy to keep the shoulders on top of the hips, thereby keeping the spine upright. Secondly, the Hero Pose is an excellent grounding stretch for the legs and feet,” she adds.

 

From correcting posture, improving digestion, and relieving fatigue, Virasana has many purported benefits, which may leave you wondering if that's why it's called the Hero Pose. Read on to know more about its meaning, purpose, steps, and modifications.

 

Meaning and Purpose

 

Hero Pose or Virasana is one of the classical yoga poses used for meditation and pranayama. This kneeling pose stretches the spine and targets several body parts from the hips through the ankles [2]. Virasana is a combination of two Sanskrit words – Vira meaning ‘heroic’ and asana meaning ‘posture.’ Thereof, Virasana means ‘a heroic posture.’ [3]

 

Hero Pose Basics

  • Difficulty Level: Beginner-to-Intermediate

  • Sanskrit Name: Virasana | (वीरासन)

  • Pronounced: vee-Raa-sun

  • Targets: Psoas, quads, ankles

  • Chakra: Root or Muladhara Chakra

  • Used for: Pranayama, Meditation

  • Props: Blanket, Cushion, Block, Kneeling bench

  • Alternatives: Sukhasana, Vajrasana

 

Hero pose, considered an alternative to Sukhasana, is a great choice for pranayama and meditation if you can’t sit in cross-legged yoga poses. Moreover, you can practice it with supportive yoga props like blankets, towels, blocks, and bolsters, which we will get into later.

Virasana belongs to the Vajrasana family, which is known for giving the quads a solid stretch. Both kneeling poses makes it easy to keep the spine upright and prevent slouching or arching, which are common issues with cross-legged yoga poses.

But the Hero Pose can become the villain if you dive into Supta virasana too soon or without warm-up lunges. Beginners should start a new practice slowly. Focus on the proper form, increase difficulty gradually, and progress to advanced variations with the use of props for support.

 

“Never rush into the Hero Pose or continue if you feel any pain or discomfort in the knees or hips. Start slow, adjust until you feel your weight is evenly distributed on the sit bones, and always press your palms against the floor to get out of Virasana,” says Jenna.

Benefits

  1. Hero Pose targets the hips, knees, quads, and psoas muscles.

  2. It stretches the legs and feet, greatly improving circulation in the lower body.

  3. Hero Pose is known to improve digestion and strengthen Apana Vayu.

  4. There are anecdotal claims that it alleviates symptoms of menopause.

  5. Hero Pose (with props) can be an easy alternative to Vajrasana, ideal for beginners.

  6. It improves posture, promotes internal awareness, and creates grounding.

 
 
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How to: Hero Pose in 7 Steps

  1. Roll out your mat and keep props at an arm's length. Get into a traditional kneeling position, with the knees close and toes pointing away from you.

  2. Keep the feet apart, at hip width (18 inches or so), or spread wide enough to sit between them. Place a yoga block or bolster pillow between your feet and below your butt. The tops of your feet will be on the floor, and the cushioning prop stays beneath your sit bones. 

  3. Adjust the feet and prop until you are comfortable. The shoulders should be above the hips, and the spine should be elongated.

  4. The tops of your feet will be flat against the floor. The toes should be straight, neither pointing in nor out, and the toenails will press into the ground.

  5. Place your hands on the knees or thighs, palms facing down for grounding or up for receiving. You can use hand gestures like Adi Mudra to deepen your practice.

  6. Stay in Hero Pose for a minute without props. But use supportive props if you plan to stay in Virasana for longer i.e., in a pranayama or meditation routine.

  7. Release the pose by raising your hips and lying flat on your stomach. You can transition into other yoga poses like the Child Pose or Downward Facing Dog.

Hero Pose Instruction Video:

 

Safety and Precautions

Hero Pose is contraindicated in hip inflammation, knee and ankle injuries, cardiovascular issues, arthritis, and heart disease. Pregnant women and people recovering from injury or surgery should speak to their physician before doing this or other yoga poses.

Virasana may cause numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Avoid this by alternating between Hero Pose and Staff Pose or using Downward Facing Dog as a counter pose. It is good practice to shift sitting positions often to avoid strain and injury.

 

Modifications and Variations

Hero Pose Modifications with Yoga Props

Yoga props can be used in several ways, only limited by your creativity. If you still can't find a comfortable way to hold the pose, consult a qualified yoga instructor to create a variation tailored to your needs.Here are a few Hero Pose modifications to practice Virasana with supportive props:

Blanket or Towel:

One easy Hero Pose modification involves wedging a yoga towel or folded blanket between your knees. You can also use two blankets, one under the knees to cushion the joints and another between the knees for comfort.

Block or Bolster:

 

In this modification, you place a yoga bolster or block under your sit bones to elevate the hips. If you choose the former, opt for a pranayama bolster pillow and position it lengthwise. Either way, ensure you don’t lean too forward, which can result in pressure on the neck and spine.

Meditation Chair or Kneeling Bench:

 

“A kneeling chair or Spoko bench is great for beginners, elderly, or people who struggle to get into and stay in Hero Pose,” says Jenna Dowell. “Some people prefer to use a small folding chair or low bench designed for meditation and prayer, which works equally well,” she adds.

Jenna is talking about wooden seiza benches, generally 5 to 8 inches high with a seat that is 16 to 18-inches in length and 7 to 10-inches wide. These benches usually come with instructions on how to use them for kneeling poses.

Virasana with a meditation bench is ideal for people recovering from leg/knee injuries or surgery. Still, we recommend consulting your doctor before doing it. You can buy one on Amazon, preferably the kind with a soft, removable cushion that snugs to the bench seat.

Hero Pose Variation: Adho mukha Virasana 

 

Adho mukha virasana is a versatile forward bend used in a yoga sequence with Virasana as the base pose. This modification is great for spine lengthening, opening the shoulders, and countering chest openers. Similar to Balasana (Child Pose), this pose is also used for recovery.

To do this variation, get into Hero Pose, anchor your hips, and move the chest and spine forward to rest your hands and head on the floor. Stay in it for 30 to 60 seconds, doing Anjali Mudra (Namaste) with your hands, and bring awareness to the lengthening of your lumbar spine. To get out, press your palms against the floor and gently return to the base pose while exhaling.

Hero Pose Variation: Virasana with Gomukhasana Arms

 

Get into Hero Pose and bring your arms to the back while clasping both hands as you would in Gomukhasana. Tilt the head back slightly and lift the chest. This combination of Hero Pose and Cow Pose is an excellent stretch because Virasana works on the lower body and the Gomukhasana modification stretches the shoulders, arms, and chest.

Hero Pose Variation: Supta Virasana

 

Suptavirasana is arguably the most popular variation of Hero Pose. In this reclining variation and its modifications, you lean back and lie on the floor in a supine position. There are many ways to do it, with and without props, which we will leave for another post.

 
 

FAQ – Related Questions

 

How long should I do Hero Pose?

 

In an asana routine, practice Virasana for 30 to 60 seconds without props and transition into the follow-up poses in your sequence. For pranayama and meditation routines, you can stay in Hero Pose for five or more minutes using props and aids.

 

How can I get out of Hero Pose safely?

 

The simplest way to get out of Hero Pose is to place your palms flat against the floor. Press against the floor and lift your hips above knee level. You can slide your legs back or forward or lie down in a supine position. Keep the weight on the arms and avoid pressure on the knees.

 

Is Hero Pose bad for the knees?

 

Hero Pose, like all yoga poses, it is safe if you follow the proper steps and read the contraindications. But it is imperative to learn Virasana from a reputable resource and not try any variations or modifications without proper progression.

 

How can I protect my knees during Hero Pose?

 

Avoid strain and knee injuries in Hero Pose by distributing your weight evenly on the sit bones and four corners of the feet. Get in and out slowly, ensuring you don't hyper-extend the knee joints. You can use a meditation bench with a zabuton or yoga knee pad to cushion your joints

 

Are Virasana and Vajrasana the same yoga pose?

 

Virasana (Hero Pose) and Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) are similar kneeling yoga postures, but they are not the same i.e., two different names for the same pose. In Vajrasana, the knees are farther apart, and you sit on your heels. In Virasana, the hips are wider, the knees are closer, and you sit between the heels (feet), not on them.  

 

In Conclusion

 

We hope this guide has provided you clear instructions and answered your question. We have created how-to guides to all the 'big five' yoga poses for pranayama.

 

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