Virasana - Hero Pose in short description: a sitting pose with deep knee flexion, and hip joints internally rotating, so that we can keep our shinbones on the sides of the thighs. And therefore the heels are on the sides of our hips too. This shape also creates a big stretch at our ankles (it's called ankle plantar flexion).
Hero Pose is not for everyone. This pose puts a lot of pressure on the knee due to the deep flexion. The internal rotation at the hip joints is unusual in a sitting pose too. And not everyone has ankles flexible enough to ¨point¨ so much - it looks like a ballet dancer here.
People will find themselves unstable or uncomfortable in the pose for:
- They can't sit on the floor
- When they sit on the floor, their knees separate
- When sitting on the floor, the low back is rounded
- Painful at the ankles
The number one modification for this pose is to sit one something as blocks. You can use the narrow or wide side of the block, and sometimes 1 block is enough to take the pressure away from your knees and hips. But I love to put 2 blocks so I can really rotate my thigh bones internally and still sit up straight and stably. The hip joint is higher than the knees, so the stress at the front hips is taken away. The blocks also give more space to sit with neutral spine instead of being rounded.
Another modification is instead of keeping the heels outside of the hips like in Hero Pose, we are going to sit on our heels in a normal kneeling position. We all have kneeled sometimes in our life, haven't we? (I'm serious) and in this modification, we take the internal rotation at hip joints away.
But kneeling is still not an easy pose for many people. Especially with the ankles' position. Have a look: the ankles are in almost maximum plantar flexion, someone with stiff ankles will not make it here. Those could be very sporty people with really strong ankle joints, or stiff people who just begin to do Yoga. I would roll a blanket to fill up the gap between the ankles and the floor to take the pressure away. The roll can be thin or thick depends on how big the gap is.
I often call this kneeling position the Japanese, because I saw Japanese people sitting here to drink tea. There is another kneeling pose you can do as a modification for Hero Pose which I call the Thai because I see it a lot in Thai massage. It's kneeling with your toes curling to touch the floor.
This pose gives a lot of stretch in the sole of our feet, a part of the body we hardly bother stretching. Some people can't stretch so much to put their toes on the floor, then you can lift the knees up and support them with blocks or a big bolster.
As you get more flexible, withdraw the blocks or bolsters and eventually, you can put your knees on the floor in this Thai kneel.
These are ways to make Virasana - Hero Pose in Yoga easier to stay in. Just like Sukhasana, Virasana is often practiced at the beginning of a Yoga class, when we practice pranayama, breathing or concentration. That's why making the pose stable and comfortable is a priority.
Sometimes, even if you can do Virasana, you can sit in the Thai or the Japanese kneeling positions to stretch the ankles and especially the sole of your feet and give diversity to your Asana practice. The stretch at the feet in Thai position is very intense after a short time and is an awesome stretch for those who wear high heels.
Ha-My Le, RYT500 Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in Malmö, Sweden
Read more about how you can make other Yoga poses easier:
- Warrior 3, Half Moon - Basic standing balance poses
I'm giving Yoga classes in Malmö, Sweden. My classes are often Vinyasa Yoga, open level. I have a clear goal to learn about the body in each Yoga class.