By Jennifer French
Virasana, or the Hero’s Pose, is a commonly used sitting or meditation posture. Those that have difficulty taking a cross-legged position often find the pose to be more accessible and comfortable. Vira, the root word for virasana, translates to hero. You may wonder how a simple and humble kneeling position came to be known as such. It all stems from the story of the humble Hanuman.
In Myths of the Asanas, Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooji explore the stories behind many of our modern yoga posture names. They tell the story of how the half mortal, half divine child, Anjaneya, came to take the form of a monkey and the name Hanuman, who then grew into a strong warrior and great friend of King Ram.
Sent on a dangerous mission to rescue Ram’s captured wife, Sita, Hanuman dropped down to his knees in prayer creating a version of the shape we know today as the Hero’s Pose. Hanuman “knelt down to pray for the grace to do the impossible,” forgetting that “he was already capable of achieving his goal.” The story goes on… and Hanuman does, indeed, save the day along with Sita.
It is this humble and divine hero who forgets his divinity and moves forward with simple faith that we hope to embody when taking the virasana…
- Kneel on the floor with your knees close together and your heels slightly wider than your hips. Reach behind your knees and draw the calf muscles down and away from the back of your knees. See video below for more about this!
- Lower your seat down between your feet. Let your sit bones meet the floor. See that your toes point directly behind you and your heels point straight up to the ceiling. Let your heels be flush to your hips.
- Rest your hands on top of your thighs. Inhale and lengthen your spine up. Maintain the length in your spine and as you exhale feel your sit bones ground down into the earth.
- Keep the natural curves of your spine and relax your shoulders. Stay for as many breaths as you feel comfortable.
Is your seat nowhere near touching the ground?
- Many people, if not most, find that bringing their seat to the ground causes discomfort in the knees and/or thighs. If your feel any discomfort at all, raise your sit bones by bringing a block underneath you. Continue to add height until you find comfort in both the knees and thighs.
Do your knees just not bend that much?
- Place support (a blanket or bolster) behind your knees, between the thighs and the calves.
Feeling a lot of pressure on your shins or the tops of your feet?
- Place a blanket beneath your knees, shins, and feet to provide cushion for your lower legs.
Some things to work on:
If you find that virasana is a real challenge but would like to explore the possibility of it becoming a bit easier, consider adding some other postures into your practice such a Warrior 1 & 2 or Malasana. By slowly working on increasing the range of movement and stabilizing the knees and ankles, you may find that taking virasana begins to change for you. Be sure to keep an eye open as we add a few videos to support you in this exploration!
And don’t forget:
While you might hear some yoga teachers say that virasana is a great pose for your knees and ankles, lots and lots of times, it just isn’t! So be sure to listen to your body and if the posture doesn’t work for you, let it go and sit in a way that feels right for YOUR body. Recognizing what works for you is what makes a strong yoga practice, not the postures that your body can or cannot take.
- A simple review of how to take virasana
Watch for more videos coming soon…
- How to take virasana with props
- A simple practice to develop virasana
- Variations on virasana
- Bonnie’s virasana