Published on July 29th, 2014 | by Catherine Tingey0
HERO POSE (Virasana)
HERO POSE is a straight forward seated posture that can be done by most (except those with tender knees.) It’s part of a triumverate of seated poses (Lotus and Comfortable Seated Pose/Sukhasana) which lend themselves well to teaching breathing techniques and meditation.
For beginners, those with tender knees, or anyone looking to hold the posture for extended periods, I recommend the use of a block or better yet, a zafu or two (meditation cushion).
This allows pressure to be removed from the knees as one is grounded in the support of the prop.
As I’ve mentioned before, all yoga postures contain an essential duality: activation and relaxation; rooting down and lifting up.
As one’s practice evolves beyond shape, these energetic dynamics will become more apparent and important, and I will delve into the topic at length in a future post. Suffice it to say that today, after some 20 years of practice, I am only interested in shape from a safety/alignment perspective. It is, in my opinion, the visible part of the iceberg.
What lies beneath is a subtlety and refinement of sensation through bandhas (also called energetic lifts or ‘locks’), that are not widely taught, understood or practiced (at least in Southern California).
But I digress.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I never, yes, NEVER encourage a student to sit between their feet. In fact, I don’t believe, contrary to what Bikram and even Yoga Journal espouse, that this posture is good for the knees and ankles. For the 1% of a class that might benefit, the remaining will overstretch ligaments that have little elasticity to begin with. Torn ACLs and wobbly knees are the result of over-emphatic teachers and students who push.
Gentleness in all things, dear yogis. That is the way.
[If tight knee ligaments and ankles are to be remedied, a standing quad stretch and the ankle alphabet will do just fine).
I teach and use this posture purely for breathing and meditation as it is easy, with props, to sit tall through the spine.
And it’s wonderfully simple.
Place a block or zafu underneath your tailbone. Experiment to see whether you prefer the block to point N-S or E-W. Perhaps use 2 blocks if your knees still feel compressed. Or 2 cushions.
Ensure that your mat is thick enough – perhaps add another- such that bony ankles are not pressing into the ground.
Place your palms on your thighs and breathe. Palms up to receive. Palms down to ground.
It’s that easy.
Envision your tailbone rooting down through the earth as you lift the crown of the head to the sky.
Soften the shoulders away from the ears with each easy exhale.