Heron Pose, Krauncasana, (kr-un-chaa-suh-nuh)
kraunca (heron / curlew like bird) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Krounchasana
Pose Type: Stretching, Core Activating, Balancing
This intense hamstring stretch will come as a result of a cultivated practice. Be patient with your body.
Heron Pose Fundamentals
Named after the proud heron bird, this powerful pose teaches you to find balance and stability in both your body and mind. It is quite an unusual seated forward fold, as it doesn’t involve you moving your torso towards the leg as you would do with other poses in this category. Rather, you’re pulling the leg towards your head, enjoying both the benefits from a forward bend and those from leg-stretching poses.
The Heron pose was mentioned in the oldest known commentary of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras by a scholar known as Vyasa. In the book, he doesn’t explain how to do the pose, but rather says the pose can only be understood by observing the heron bird. The name itself confirms the pose was inspired by the stance of the bird. The shape of the pose also resembles a heron – the extended leg mimics the long neck, and the foot acts like its head.
In the commentary, Vyasa also says the asana should be steady and comfortable. However, that’s not easy to achieve in this complex pose, as there are many elements you need to do right. The pose requires a high level of flexibility, focus, core strength, and balance, so it may not be accessible for beginners. However, there are modifications you can use to make it more attainable.
As a forward fold, this pose may help release mental blockages and bring a sense of stability, and remove the feelings of stress and anxiety. The energetic benefits are quite similar, as the pose stimulates the Manipura chakra, which is related to the sense of inner power, the true self, and when balanced, imparts a sense of grounding, self-confidence and stability.
Heron Pose Benefits
- Stretches the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and ankles on the straight leg and quadriceps on the bent leg.
- Strengthens the back muscles, pelvic floor, the back of the neck, and the spine.
- Helps build a healthy postural habit, by teaching you to keep your chest lifted and your entire back long.
- Improves your range of motion and may be restorative for those participating in sports and activities that include running.
- Stimulates the internal organs, and is especially helpful for the digestive system.
- May help those who struggle with flat foot problems.
- Helps combat insomnia, stress, and fatigue, and by increasing the blood flow to the brain, also improves your focus and mental clarity.
How To Do Heron Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin in Staff Pose (Dandasana), sitting on the back of your mat with your legs extended in front of you. If you usually elevate your hips on a cushion or a blanket in Staff Pose to keep your lower back straight, then do the same for this pose.
2. Bend your left knee and place your foot back, just as you would in Hero pose. The left foot should sit outside the left buttock and point straight back. The knee should be facing straight ahead and the thigh should sit at the center.
3. If it’s difficult to do the Hero leg position or if you have knee issues, replace the position with a single-legged Easy Pose variation, opening the knee to the side and placing the foot close to the inner right thigh.
4. Bend your right leg and walk your foot close to your hips. Then grasp your right foot with both hands. To ensure your spine stays long, bring your shoulders down and back.
5. Slowly extend the right leg as much as you can, while keeping your chest lifted. In the full expression of the pose, the leg is fully extended and diagonal to the floor, forming a V shape with your torso. If you’re not able to extend your leg, you can also hold it around the thigh or use a strap.
6. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths and release. Return to Dandasana, then repeat the same steps on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- Before attempting the Heron pose, prepare by practicing the Hero pose.
- Begin with only partially stretching your leg by holding your leg around the thigh instead of the foot.
- If you’re not able to keep your chest lifted and your spine long, practice a modified variation with a strap.
- To make the pose easier for the bottom leg and knee, elevate your hips on a folded blanket or a cushion, or adjust the position of the leg to the same position you would do for the Butterfly pose.
- Don’t look up – keep your gaze ahead of you to maintain a neutral neck.
Heron Pose Variation:
Heron Pose Variation: Heron Pose with a twist
If you are able to hold the Heron Pose with a straight spine, you can also increase the challenge and the activation of the spine by adding a twist.
To do so, grab the outer edge of the raised foot, shin, or ankle with the opposite hand. Place the other hand by your side or behind you for support. Then gently pull the stretched leg to the opposite side as you twist the torso towards the side of the raised leg.
Hold for a couple of breaths, and repeat the same variation on the other side.
Heron Pose with straps
If it is difficult to completely straighten the raised leg or hold the ankle, you can use a strap. Attach it around the sole of the foot of the raised leg and hold it with both hands. Then extend the leg, and adjust the length of the strap.
This variation is also helpful for students who are able to extend the leg but struggle with keeping their spine straight. Using a strap helps prevent rounding in the spine and allows you to build proper alignment.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Hunched Shoulders. Keep your shoulders back and away from your ears. Adjusting where you hold the raised leg can help you prevent hunching.
Rounded Back. Remember to keep your spine straight.
Chest leaning forward. To increase the stretch in the thighs and activation in the back, make sure you keep the chest lifted in the pose.
Knee or Ankle Problems
The knee has to bear a lot of weight in this pose, and the action of pulling the foot can strain the ankle. For this reason, practice a modified version under the supervision of an instructor if you have any knee or ankle problems, or avoid the pose altogether
Seated Wide Angle Pose
For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.
Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.