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Hero Pose (Virasana) in Yoga – Steps, Benefits, and Uses

Deepen your asana routine with this kneeling posture.

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Last Update on 28th July, 2022

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  • Learn how to do Hero Pose with the proper form

  • Get in and out of Virasana safely with tips from yoga instructors

  • Read about the benefits, modifications, and common mistakes

  • Also, see the step-by-step instructions for Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

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Hero Pose or Virasana is a commonly used kneeling posture 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 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, Virasana is a great grounding stretch for the legs,” she adds.

 

From correcting posture, improving digestion, and relieving fatigue and symptoms of menopause, 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.

 

Virasana: Meaning and Purpose

 

Virasana (वीरासन) or Hero Pose refers to a sitting posture used in yoga. It stretches the spine and targets several body parts from the hips through the ankles [2]. It’s one of the most commonly used kneeling poses in pranayama and meditation.

 

Virasana is a combination of two Sanskrit words – Vira meaning ‘heroic’ and asana meaning ‘posture.’ Thereof, Virasana means ‘a heroic posture.’ [3]

 

We get into the steps, benefits, and modifications of Hero Pose below with tips from yoga instructors to avoid common mistakes.

 

Hero Pose Basics

  • Difficulty Level: Beginner-to-Intermediate

  • Sanskrit Name: Virasana

  • 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 cross-legged. Moreover, you can practice this posture with yoga 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. The yoga pose makes it easy to keep the spine upright and prevents slouching or arching, which are common issues with meditation asanas that stress the spine.

 

“Never rush into Virasana 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 sitting bones, and always press your palms against the floor to get out of Virasana,” says Jenna.

 

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.

Why Virasana: Hero Pose Benefits

  1. Virasana is a kneeling yoga posture that targets the hips, knees, quads, psoas, and feet.

  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 about Virasana alleviating symptoms of menopause.

  5. Virasana (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. To practice Hero Pose, roll out your mat and keep your props at hand. 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 beneath your sit bones. 

  3. Adjust the feet and prop until you are comfortable. There should be no strain in the knees, ankles, or hips. 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 Dhyana Mudra to deepen your practice.

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

  7. Release the Hero Pose by raising your hips and lying flat on your stomach. You can also transition into the Child Pose and/or Downward Facing Dog if you have been in the Virasana for three or more minutes.

Hero Pose Instruction Video:

 

Safety and Precautions

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

Virasana can cause numbness or pins-and-needles. Avoid this by alternating between Hero Pose and Staff Pose or using Downward Facing Dog as a counter pose. Lastly, it is good practice to shift sitting positions often to avoid strain and injury [1].

 

Hero Pose Modifications and Variations

 

Here are a few variations and modifications to practice Virasana with the aid of yoga props:

Virasana with 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.

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.

Adho mukha Virasana – Downward Facing Hero Pose

 

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.

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.

Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)

 

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 Virasana or Hero Pose variations?

 

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 Virasana safely?

 

The simplest way to get out of Virasana 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 stretches the knee joints, but as is the case with any yoga asana, it is safe if you follow the proper steps and read the safety guidelines and contraindications. It's imperative to learn Virasana from a reputable resource and attempt it fully aware of your limits. Lastly, do not try any variations or modifications without the proper progression.

 

How can I protect my knees during Virasana?

 

Distribute your weight evenly on the sit bones and four corners of the feet during Virasana. Get in slow and get out slow, ensuring you don't hyperextend the knee joints. Use a yoga knee pad cushion to protect your knees further. Consult a yoga instructor for suitable modifications if you are recovering from injury or have chronic problems.

 

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. Check out our Instagram (@pranasutra.yoga) and share this free resource with your friends and family. Also, join our mailing list for the latest updates, gear reviews, and in-depth guides to pranayama.

 

Related Posts:

 

Looking to expand your repertoire or deepen your pranayama practice? We have covered five commonly used yoga sitting postures such as Siddhasana and Sukhasana.

 

Sources:

 

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