At first glance, Virasana (Hero Pose) looks simple. You don't have to balance on your head or bend your spine backward or support all your weight with your hands. Yet the classical seated posture can be enormously challenging the first, say, 12,000 times you practice it. Some students have reported feeling that their thighs were on fire, that their knees would explode, or that their ankles were going to break off. Since you don't come to yoga to increase your physical and mental discomfort, how can you make this pose more accessible?
The answer is not simply to avoid it. While Virasana's benefits aren't immediately obvious, there are many. The pose increases flexibility in the knees and ankles, teaches internal rotation in the thighs, reduces tension in the legs, and is said to aid digestion and soothe abdominal discomfort. It is also one of the traditional seated postures for meditation and breath awareness. When your body is properly supported, you can sit in Virasana for several minutes at a time, becoming aware of the natural curves of your spine, the contours of your chest, the movement of your breath, and other internal sensations.