Virasana, or Hero Pose, is a beautifully unique asana. This seated posture is excellent for sitting in meditation for long periods of time as it helps to improve posture and increase circulation through the legs.
Virasana creates the deepest flexion of the knee joint possible (to a healthy, normal knee) and thus “resets” and re-stabilizes this important joint. And while it is an excellent posture to keep your knees healthy and mobile, it should be noted that it is contraindicated for practitioners with existing knee and/or ankle injuries.
How To Be A Hero
To practice Hero Pose, start by kneeling on your knees with your toes pointed straight back behind you and your thighs perpendicular to the floor. If kneeling causes any discomfort in your knees or ankles, add padding by rolling up your mat or a blanket and placing it wherever you may want additional cushioning.
Walk your feet out to be slightly wider than your hips and draw your inner knees to touch each other. Take your hands to hold your calves and manually externally rotate your gastrocnemius muscles (the chief muscle running through your calves) toward the outer edges of your mat.
Subtly activate into your core by imagining that you are cinching a corset around your whole waistline. Keeping this engagement, gently begin to relax your seat between your legs, either releasing onto a block, bolster or blanket or all the way down to the floor.
Be sure that your feet remain pointing straight back behind you (not allowing your feet to sickle out in any direction) and maintain the tops of your feet resting evenly against the mat. Try your best to keep your knees in contact with one another throughout the duration of the posture.
Resist the urge to allow your spine to slump back here. Press your sit bones down against the floor, block, bolster or blanket and elongate the crown of your head in the opposite direction. Relax your hands wherever feels comfortable and draw your attention inward. Breathe into the gentle stretch and the power of this heroic posture.
Note: The knee is a very complex and sensitive joint. There are many muscles that support the knee but there are no actual muscles at the site of the joint. Because of this, there is no such thing as a good “stretch” through the knee joint itself.
If you feel any tension, pulling sensation or pain in the knee, immediately release the pose. You can either add more cushioning underneath you and prop yourself up higher or simply skip practicing this specific asana. Do whichever feels more appropriate for your body, not your ego.
Benefits of Hero Pose
Physically, Hero Pose stretches the hips, thighs, ankles and feet. It strengthens the arches of the feet to help relieve symptoms of flat foot. It improves circulation throughout the legs and helps to relieve fatigue in the legs as well.
It also aids in improving digestion and relieving pain caused from gas. Virasana is also magic to women as this pose helps to relieve the symptoms associated with menopause and helps to reduce any swelling of the legs resulting from pregnancy. In addition to all of this, Hero Pose is also therapeutic for people with high blood pressure and/or asthma.
Beyond the physical benefits, Hero pose also serves as an excellent seated position for meditation, allowing practitioners to transcend their physical bodies as they enter the world of the subtle. Relieving the symptoms of so many irritating and troublesome maladies, Hero Pose can truly be a transformational posture for many.
Do you regularly practice Hero pose? How has it helped you physically, mentally, or spiritually?