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Hero's Journey

In yogic lore, heroes and heroines possess strength and equanimity. This classical seated pose can help you find your own inner hero.

By Jason Crandell

Move your awareness further up your legs to your knees. When you adjust the pose properly for your body, Virasana keeps the knees healthy and mobile. But there are pitfalls: namely, twisting the knees (a big no-no) or overstretching the ligaments. If you feel any sharp, localized pain in your knees, sit higher until the discomfort stops. That said, a certain amount of sensation is normal, especially if your body is not accustomed to the pose.

Cup your knees with your hands and draw the skin underneath your knees toward you. This should help decrease any pressure you might feel. Hone your awareness by noticing how one knee feels slightly different from the other.

Now take your attention to the tension and resistance in the front of your thighs. The legs are powerful, and in a fold this deep they can feel as if they want to uncoil, like springs. Breathe smoothly as you feel your legs' tenacity, recognizing how important it is to do poses like this to help relax and revitalize them.

Park Your Pelvis in Neutral

Move your attention further up the body, to the pelvis. Your pelvis provides the perfect foundation for a long and supported spine—when it's in its proper alignment.

To find the ideal placement, imagine that your entire pelvic area is a bowl nearly filled with water. Place your hands on your hips and slowly rock the bowl forward, toward your thighs. Then rock it back toward the wall behind you. Imagine that the water sloshes toward the front rim of your pelvic bowl as you shift it forward, then rushes toward the back rim as you tilt back.

Stop the rocking movement and bring your pelvis to the center, so that the imaginary water touches the walls evenly. Finally, tilt your pelvis forward just slightly until the water barely touches the front rim. This is what a neutral pelvis feels like. The hips tilt forward slightly, and the lower back moves into its natural shallow curve, making the imaginary water slightly higher in the front.

(Spinal) Curves Ahead

When you move into an unfamiliar posture, you might notice your body's tendency to grip in certain areas, especially the belly. Focus on allowing your belly to soften and receive several smooth, full breaths. Let it expand on the inhalation and relax on the exhalation.

Now that you've settled into Virasana, you can begin to develop healthy posture by becoming aware of your spine's natural curves. After the pelvic bowl exercise above, your lower back should arch into a gentle curve. But to be sure, place one hand in the small of your back and feel for yourself—is it arching in, slumping back, or flat? Depending on what you find, adjust your spine accordingly, until you feel a mild sway in your lower back.

Unlike your lower back, your middle and upper back should curve gently backward. To create this shape, move your entire rib cage toward the back of your body. It's a subtle movement—you should feel as if your middle and upper back touch the back of your shirt more than its front. You don't want to slump or hunch your shoulders up toward the ears, so move slowly and deliberately. Finally, imagine that your chest is full of helium and let it float up as your collarbones expand out away from each other.

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