Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing and teaching yoga for life.

Reclining Hero Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions


Get more benefits out of Virasana by laying back in this pose for a deeper stretch of your thighs and ankles.

Caution: If you cannot perform seated Virasana without sitting on a height, then your knees are not ready for this posture. Practice Virasana until you can sit on the floor before trying Supta Virasana on your own.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Variations Partnering

Supta Virasana

(Pronounced as "soup-tah VEER-AHS-anna")

Supta vira means "a hero lying down" in Sanskrit.

How to do Reclining Hero Pose

Step One

Kneel down in Virasana, pulling your feet back so that the insides of your heels touch the outsides of your hips. Point your toes outward at 45-degree angles away from your sides. On an exhalation, lean back, pressing first the palms, then the forearms and finally the elbows into the mat behind you.

Then recline onto your back support or straight down onto the mat by gradually sliding your arms forward inch by inch. Lift your sternum and lengthen your back. If your knees are very stiff and you start to feel excessive strain in your knees at this point, then come up for a minute and add a folded blanket underneath your sitting bones. If you lean backward again and still feel discomfort in the knees, you can add a rolled blanket inside the crease behind your knees as well.

Remember that you will also need a back support as described under the "Modifications and Props" section below if you are using support under your sitting bones or inside the creases behind the knees.

Step Two

When you first lie down, the very tip of your tailbone will have a tendency to point straight down into the floor, crunching up your lower back. Counteract this movement to help align your spine by tucking the tailbone up into your pelvis without lifting your thighs up. Keep your legs together. Spread your chest and let the outer edges of the shoulders descend completely. Now lay your arms slightly out to the sides on the floor, keeping your palms facing upward.

Step Three

Let the roots of your thighs sink down as much as possible. Your thighs must stay close together so that the knees never come apart any wider than your hips. Relax your face, throat, arms and abdomen. Keep the chest slightly lifted.

Step Four

At first, you can hold this posture for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. As you practice it more often, then you can hold it for 5 minutes or longer. To exit the pose, use your arms to push your torso back up while keeping the head back. Return to regular Virasana. Then lean forward onto your knees, cross your ankles behind you and sit back down by "rolling" your buttocks gently over your feet. Slowly straighten your legs.

Beginner's Tip:

When you lie back, your thighs will have a tendency to slip apart from each other. In order to hold your knees and thighs together, use a yoga belt. Make a large loop with the belt and slide it around the middle of your thighs and shins while you are kneeling. Then tighten the belt just enough to stop the legs from coming apart.

Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Supta Virasana

Pose Level:

Level 2

Contraindications and Cautions:

  • Lower-back injuries less than 3 months old
  • Severe chest pain
  • Knee injuries less than 3 months old
  • For those who have had surgery on their ankles, knees or heart: Do not practice this posture without the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher.

Modifications and Props:

If you cannot lay back completely onto the mat, then use a bolster and a blanket for support. Place the bolster behind you so that the shorter end is one inch away from your lower back. If you do not have a bolster, then stack two tri-folded yoga blankets to create the same height as a bolster. Now put another folded yoga blanket at the other end of your back support to create a pillow under your head when you lie down.

Deepen the Pose:

You can relax your groins and hips more by resting sandbags across the tops of your thighs where they connect with your pelvis.

Once you are lying comfortably in the pose, raise your arms up over your head on an inhalation. Stretch your arms out straight so that they rest on the floor behind your head. Your fingertips should point away from your head. Now rotate your arms out to let your palms and armpits face the ceiling. Tuck your shoulder blades in and let the shoulders descend down and away from your neck.

Therapeutic Applications:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Anxiety and other nervous system disorders
  • Inflammation in the knee joints
  • Prolapsed uterus
  • Digestive troubles
  • Gout
  • Rheumatic pains
  • Flatfoot
  • Varicose veins

Benefits:

  • Enhances blood circulation to the heart
  • Expands the lungs to help you breathe deeply
  • Tones the reproductive organs
  • Builds strength in the arches of your feet
  • Relieves tension from standing for long hours by stretching the thighs, hips, knees, ankles and shin muscles
  • Reduces menstrual pain

Partnering:

It is a common habit for many people to crunch their backs up when they lie backward, overarching the back. Too much of an arch here will compress your lower back unnecessarily and can cause discomfort around your sacrum. Ask your partner to help you lengthen your spine properly by kneeling behind you as you come into this pose. After you extend your arms straight over your head, have your partner grasp your hands and pull your arms away from your head, keeping your arms as low to the floor as possible. Focus on tucking your tailbone in line with the rest of your spine as you exhale, lengthening your spine along with their pull.

Variations:

You can warm up for this posture by practicing Supta Ardha Virasana, in which only one of your legs remains bent back in Virasana. Simply pull your right leg back so that the inside of your right heel makes contact with the outside of your right hip. Keep your knees together and the left leg straight as you bend back to come into the pose as described above.

Next Pose:

Scale Pose

9 styles | 152 poses

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Low Lunge Pose
Monkey Pose
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Sage Koundinya I Pose
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Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Revolved Triangle Pose
Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Reclining Hero Pose
Scale Pose
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Hero Pose
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