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Asana of the Month: 04
Virasana ~ Hero Pose

HERO While it looks simple, sitting in this pose is truly a heroic feat for many of us who have stiff hips,knees and ankles, because it can give those areas quite a stretch. But for that very reason it is one of the best for opening the hips to rotate more internally, loosening the knee joints and stretching the quadriceps as well as the front of the shins and ankles. This pose helps develop arches in the feet, so it is good for flat feet. And because it increases circulation at the bottom of the pelvis, virasana also promotes reproductive health. Once you get comfortable in the pose, it is very solid and grounding. This, plus the fact that it facilitates aligning the spine and shushumna (central energy channel), makes Virasana an excellent pose for meditation.

Images by Nancy Van Kanegan
senior teacher at the Chicago Yoga Center
No use without written permission

Practice Tips:

So try these steps for becoming a hero. And for more on preliminary exercises that will make this pose easier, see the excellent article on Virasana by Sandra Anderson in the December/January 2000 issue of Yoga International.

Kneel on a soft surface (doubled mat or blanket) with the knees together. Take the feet slightly wider than hip's width apart (to the edge of the mat if you're using one). Reach behind the knees and press the palms on the calf muscles to pull them back and slightly out. Holding the calf muscles down, sit between the ankles so they are alongside the hips.

If you're stiff like me and there's no way the sitting bones will get to the floor or the stretch is too intense on the knees, sit on a block or rolled up blanket to elevate the hips. You may also find it helpful to put folded washcloth or sock behind each knee before you come to sit. If the stretch is too intense on the ankles, put a rolled up towel or mat under the tops of the ankles, or sit so the tops of the ankles are on the edge of the blanket you're sitting on, with the toes off it. You may also let the knees separate a little to alleviate the stretch there if it's too intense.

Check to see that the tops of all the toes are on the mat, blanket or floor and that the ankles are not falling inward. If they are, you might find it helpful to put your fists between the heel and the hips and encourage the feet to line up parallel.

Whether your sitting bones are on a block, blanket or the floor, push down from the center of your pelvis and root them down into your base. Roll the inner thighs down and the groins down and back to promote the inward opening of the hip joint. Then from the center of the pelvis, extend up, having the spine rise up like the stem of a flower that blossoms at the crown of your head.

As you sit, make sure you're not jutting the ribs forward. Instead, take the lower ribs back and the kidneys up while bringing the spine in, so the spine stretches evenly front and back. To help align the pelvis, bend forward a bit, pull the flesh of the buttocks back and out, then sit straight and root the tail bone down. Roll the shoulders up and back and lift or lower the chin so the head balances lightly and evenly at the top of the spine.

Rest your hand palms down on your thighs or palms down on your feet. Breathe evenly, rising up on the inhales, rooting down on the exhales, and become a true yogic champion, heroically overcoming your limitations to connect more fully with Supreme Consciousness.

To come out of the pose, lean forward and come to your hands and knees. Stretch one leg back strongly through the heel, then rotate ankle inward three times and outward three times. Do the opposite leg, then lift up into "lazy dog" pose - bend one knee and push the opposite heel down, then bend the other, also bending the elbows and pushing out into the shoulders and hips to take out the kinks so you feel like the champion you are.

Text by Tim Noworyta
senior teacher at the
Chicago Yoga Center

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