Reclining Hero Pose, Supta Virasana, (soup-tah veera-suh-nuh)
supta (laying down or reclining) + vira (warrior) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Saddle Pose, Fixed-Firm Pose
This pose offers a deep stretch to the thighs ankles and knees
As the name suggests, Reclining Hero Pose is an extension of Virasana, a kneeling pose with an element of internal hip rotation. In essence, adding the act of reclining to Hero Pose forces the torso into a backbend, while simultaneously intensifying the stretch that affects the thighs, ankles, and hips.
As a result, Reclining Hero Pose can be classified as a more intermediate asana. However, if you are a beginner trying to master this pose, you can train your body through the many variations available for this asana. Additionally, it is possible to accommodate injuries and special circumstances by using the props in your Reclining Hero practice.
- Great for runners and cyclists. Reclining Hero Pose affects every part of your body from the waist down. From your lower back down to your toes, this pose helps to improve lower body flexibility and release tension. That’s why Supta Virasana is great for athletes who favor sports like running, cycling, pole vaulting, skateboarding, etc.
- Stretches hip flexors and quads. Every person could benefit from stretching their hip flexors and quadriceps, but especially those of us who spend a large amount of time sitting down. If you have a desk job, or you’re a full-time student, this is a great pose to help you relax at the end of the day.
- Improves ankle mobility. Ankle mobility is incredibly important when it comes to everyday tasks such as walking, going up and down the stairs, and even maintaining balance when standing. Reclining Hero Pose is a great way to stretch your ankles and feet, helping you gain more stability. It also reduces the risk of injury on a misstep or fall.
- Opens the chest and shoulders. The act of reclining back creates a gentle backbend through the entire spine. It forces our thoracic spine to arch, which consequently broadens the front of your chest and the space between your shoulders. This simple action not only improves your posture, it also promotes rounded, free breathing.
- Provides restorative action for the body and mind. Lying back and stretching the front of the body has a soothing, grounding effect on the practitioner. In a yoga sequence, this pose is usually cued towards the end of the session to enable the mind and body to wind down. It is also often included in restorative classes, such as Yin.
- Promotes cardiovascular health. Along with better lung function, this pose can help you make your heart healthier. It improves blood pressure, prevents arterial blockages, and increases coronary blood flow. These factors can help you majorly reduce the risk of heart disease.
1. Start in a four-point kneeling position. Slide your knees close together and move your ankles apart. The distance between your ankles should be wide enough to fit your hips.
2. Carefully walk your hands closer to your knees as you sink your hips between your ankles.
3. Keep walking your hands alongside your calves until you can rest on your elbows. Then, lower your back to the floor and soften your muscles. You can extend your arms either side of the body or, alternatively, lift your arms and bend them at the elbows to prop your head. Take a moment to settle and relax.
4. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Stay in the pose for up to a minute. To exit Reclining Hero Pose, engage your core and press your elbows into the ground. Carefully lift your torso, then free the lower body.
- In this pose, the focus is on the internal rotation of your hips. That means there should be no twisting sensation in your knees. If you feel any discomfort in the knee area, it’s best to modify the asana to accommodate your body.
- Like most reclining yoga poses, Supta Virasana is a passive, grounding pose. You should be able to feel comfortable enough to let your body relax and sink into your yoga mat. Any pain or discomfort will detract from the restorative nature of the pose, which is why it’s important to check in with yourself every step of the way. Thankfully, there are also plenty of variations to help you find comfort in this asana.
- Be mindful of your lower back. If you feel any unpleasant sensations, such as pinching or pulling around your pelvis and lumbar spine, ease off or reposition. Feel free to use as many props as you need to.
Even the regular Hero Pose (Virasana) can place a lot of stress on your legs and ankles. When you recline, that pressure only grows more powerful. In addition to the quad and ankle stretch, the reclined variation brings an arching movement to the lower back, as well as the stretch of the hip flexors. As a result, it can feel quite uncomfortable, especially if you are not accustomed to this asana.
The good news is, you don’t have to go all the way down to the floor! As you recline, you can rest your back on a bolster, shortening the distance and easing the pressure on the front of the thighs. This variation is often encouraged in restorative classes such as Yin. To perform Reclining Hero Pose with a bolster, simply line up the bolster behind you before you start leaning back. This will also help you get up from the reclined position.
Reclining Hero Pose Half-Way
If you don’t have a bolster available, that’s okay! You can still modify the pose to make it easier on your quadriceps, ankles, hips, and lower back. Even better, you can use your own body to make that happen!
In essence, you are mimicking the position as if you were resting on the bolster, while supporting your body’s weight with your arms. When you start leaning back, keep going until your elbows touch the ground. Position the elbows directly underneath your shoulders and avoid sinking your neck or dropping your head backwards. Instead, focus on keeping your chest broad and open, breathing at full volume.
One of the obstacles when entering Reclining Hero Pose is the lower body position. Sinking your hips between your ankles can be quite challenging even before you start lying back on your mat. To combat the discomfort in your knees or hips, you can place a yoga block between your ankles to support your seat.
Depending on how many blocks you have available, you can also stack them to support your lower back, shoulders and neck. The beauty of blocks is that as you progress, you can gradually remove them one at a time. Eventually, you may be able to perform this pose without any modifications at all!
- Knee injury. Placing the knees together while the ankles are wide forces your hips into internal rotation. In itself, it’s not a problem. However, if you don’t have enough mobility in your hips, that will have a knock-on effect on your knees, making them twist to accommodate the position of your body. But unlike other joints, the knees are not designed to rotate or twist. Therefore, if you have a past or existing knee injury, you may want to avoid this asana. You should also modify your position if you feel any pain or discomfort, even if your knees are perfectly healthy.
- Lower back. If you suffer from a past or current spinal injury or condition, especially if the injury is located in the lower spine, practice this pose with caution. If the injury is severe, you should consult a medical professional and only proceed if you are cleared for yoga practice.
- Quadriceps and hip flexors. This pose provides a very intense stretch for the front of your thighs and hips. If you experience stiffness in these parts of your body, you may want to modify this pose. You should also practice extreme caution if you have experienced a muscle or ligament tear in your quads, knees, or hips, because it may feel much tighter than it would otherwise.
- Pregnancy. No matter which stage of pregnancy you’re in, it’s important to consult your doctor if you are planning to practice yoga. When it comes to this pose specifically, it may place undue stress on lower limbs and back. Therefore, if it causes any discomfort, you may opt for a safer reclining pose such as Legs-Up-The-Wall.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)
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