The intensity of the Virasana position (Hero Pose) can feel as daunting as the hero’s journey in your favorite adventure story from Star Wars to Oz. Such a deep bend of the knee requires plenty of TLC and should never be rushed into. Postures that release the quads, hip flexors, and psoas are all fantastic preps for this heroic leg and hip flexor stretch. Choose the variation on the pose, ranging from gentle to fiery, to fit the narrative of your personal story on the mat today.
For more storytelling on the mat, sign up now for Budig’s class The Hero’s Journey at Yoga Journal LIVE New York April 23.
Your Story: Mellow
Your Hero: Modified Virasana
Start on your knees with your feet and knees hip-width apart. Slide a block the wide way (the height will vary per practitioner) between your ankles and sit on the block. Close off the space between your knees (or bring them at least hip-width apart) and lightly spread all 10 of your toes, pressing them evenly down into the mat. Firm your outer ankles in toward your inner ankles to hug the block. Root down into your block, sit tall, and place your hands on your thighs or in your lap. Sit here for 5 breaths or up to 1 full minute.
Your Story: Amplified
Your Hero: Supta Ardha Virasana (Reclined Half Hero)
Sit in Staff Pose. Bend your right knee and tuck the top (toenail side) of your foot next to your right hip. Spread your toes evenly as you firm them into the mat and hug the outer ankle in. Keep your knees in line with your hips (again, no wider than hip-width apart), and lean back onto your forearms. This may be plenty, or continue to work your way fully onto your back. Keep a slight engagement of your lower belly (think lower belly lifting toward your belly button) to protect your lower back. Hold for 8 breaths, work your way back up and switch sides.
Your Story: Stoic Challenge
Your Hero: King Arthur’s Pose
Bring your mat over to a wall space (double fold if you have sensitive knees). Starting on hands and knees, bend your right knee and place it about 3–5 inches away from the wall with the toenail side of your foot flush against the wall. Step your left foot forward into a lunge with your knee stacking over your heel. You can either keep your hands on the ground, prop them onto two blocks, or bring both hands onto your left quad. Keep the lower belly active to prevent pitching in the lower back. Hold for 8 breaths and then switch sides.
To go deeper:
Work the base knee flush with the wall as you snuggle your hips against the wall and to the inside of your right foot. Extend your arms overhead keeping your front ribs in and lower belly lifting. Hold for 8 breaths.
Your Story: Next-Level Challenge
Your Hero: Camel (Ustrasana) Variation
Begin on your knees with your feet and knees hip-width apart. Reach your right hand back to lift your right foot off the ground and gently pull it toward your hip. Cross your left arm in front of you like a seat belt to grab your right foot. Manually draw your foot up your arm as high as you can until your toes can rest on the back of your arm directly below your armpit. Put your fingertips onto the mat (roughly shoulder-width away from your left toes). Place your left hand on your hip. Hold here or bring your left hand to your heart or extend it overhead and back. Release your head and massively lift your heart. Hold for a few breaths and switch sides.
About Our Expert
Kathryn Budig is the yoga teacher behind AIM TRUE, a regular writer for Yoga Journal, and a presenter at Yoga Journal LIVE! Her organization Poses for Paws raises funds to support animal shelters through yoga events. She shares the moments, places, and people that motivate and move her with #findyourinspiration. Discover what inspires her here in challenging asana, feel-good flows, and tips and tricks of the trade to help you advance your practice.