Practicing yoga asana is one way to keep ourselves nimble, and not just in our daily movements through space. Many of yoga’s asanas also benefit the vital internal systems that operate 24/7 to keep us alive. Virasana (Hero’s Pose) resides in the category of poses that help us move more freely, but also is said to keep our deeper systems in balance.
Virasana stretches the thighs and ankles, strengthens the arches, improves digestion and relieves gas, and can be therapeutic for high blood pressure. It also increases circulation to the lower body, rooting the energy in the pelvic floor and legs.
How to Practice Virasana:
To practice Virasana, gather a yoga mat, at least two blankets and a yoga block. Before you start, practice a simple standing forward bend (Uttanasana) to stretch out the backs of your legs.
Place a folded blanket on your mat. Start on your hands and knees. Place your knees an inch or so apart and separate the feet a little wider than hip-width. Place your palms on your calf muscles and press them down into the bones. Still pressing, slide your hands back toward your ankles as you sit your hips down between your feet.
Many, if not most, people can’t sit on the floor between their knees in the pose, at least initially. If you have a known knee injury or if your knees feel ANY discomfort, please roll up your blanket and place it under your hips so that you are sitting higher. Keep adding height—blankets or a block—until you can sit comfortably. You might also try rolling up two thin washcloths or socks and place one behind each knee as you sit down into Virasana. This can create a bit of space behind your knees that might relieve discomfort.
Donna Farhi says, “There’s no good knee pain.” The knees are strung together with ligaments. Any feeling of stretching or discomfort means that ligaments are stretching. Ligaments do not have the “memory”of muscles —they do not rebound when they are stretched. Over time, this stretching can destabilize your knee joints. Virasana can help keep your knees nimble, but it is important to approach it with caution and respect. It can take years for some people’s hips to reach the floor, and if they never do that’s okay too. It’s far better to sit on blankets and enjoy healthy knees in the rest of your life than to force yourself to the floor and risk injury. An experienced teacher can help you find your healthiest position.
Once you have found a comfortable position, sit in Virasana for five breaths. Settle your hips down into your blankets or the floor. Feed your sit bones into the earth. If you like, you can clasp your fingers and raise your arms overhead. Turn your palms up and reach upward as you root your hips. Breathe and expand your torso. After a few breaths return your palms to your thighs. Over time, you can increase your stay—as long as you are comfortable. When you are ready, move back to all fours and then into a standing forward bend (Uttanasana).
Benefits of Virasana:
Virasana’s circulatory benefits make it a great defense against frigid feet. Its digestive benefits help counteract the effects of too much food and drink. It’s a great alternative to sitting cross-legged in meditation—as long as you give your body plenty of blankets or block support. You can also turn a zafu (round meditation cushion) on its side and sit high in Virasana on the cushion. Virasana invigorates our legs as it calms our body/mind energies. Virasana can help you stay warm, relaxed and rooted.
Written by Charlotte Bell and published on www.yogauonline.com