Yoga student enjoys the benefits of Hero Pose with a blanket to protect knees, hips, and ankles

Yoga for Healthy Knees, Hips and Ankles: 3 Ways to Prop Virasana

By: 
Allison Ray Jeraci ERYT-500, RPYT

Virasana (Hero’s Pose) is a popular choice for a seated position in most yoga classes. Even so, it may not be entirely accessible due to the required amount of hip flexion, knee flexion and plantar flexion of the ankle. 

This asana is performed by kneeling on the floor with the knees close together, the feet slightly wider than the hips and then sitting on the floor between the feet. If you find the unsupported version of Virasana uncomfortable, then these three ways to prop Virasana may help.

Virasana for the Hips, Knees, and Ankles

How to practice Hero Pose (Sanskrit name: Virasana) with a chair and bolster to help support the hips, knees, and ankles

If you experience discomfort in the hips, knees, and ankles when they are in the flexed position and bearing weight, lifting the entire pose away from the floor is necessary. Using a chair and a bolster will help greatly.

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet together and on a bolster located below the front of the chair seat.

  2. Bring the knees in line with your anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS or hip points).

  3. Bend the right knee into the edge of the chair seat and slip the pointed right foot behind the bolster so that the front of the shin is supported by the bolster.

  4. Do the same thing on the left side. 

  5. If your feet reach the ground very easily, try sitting on a few blankets so that when you take the feet behind the bolster the toes lightly touch the floor and the ankles are suspended.

Virasana with Blocks

In a yoga class, a student practices Hero Pose (Sanskrit name) to experience the benefits of healthy knees, hips, and ankles

As long as there is no discomfort in the tops of the feet, you can raise the height of the floor underneath the sitting bones. This is minimally propped, can be customized more accurately and is rather quick to set up.

  1. Set up two blocks horizontally on their lowest height stacked on top of each other.

  2. Come into Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose) in front of the blocks and with the inner ankles to the outside of the blocks. 

  3. Sit back on the blocks and lift your torso upright. If this is bothersome in the knees or hips, try adding another block or go to the chair version.

  4. If the two blocks are too high, try taking one block out from under your hips.

  5. You may discover you can take away both blocks but you still aren’t quite at the floor. In this case, you can try placing a folded blanket between your lower legs and then lowering the hips down onto the blanket. You might be somewhere between using two blocks so try a block and blanket. With some time and patience with the props, you will find your specific setting.

Propping the Ankles in Virasana

The benefits of practicing Hero Pose (Sanskrit name: Virasana) with a blanket under the knees and hips to protect them

When there is a limited amount of plantar flexion, we might sit up higher thinking it is an issue with the knees or hips. By giving the ankle some metaphorical room to breathe, the hips and knees are able to flex more without the entire pose being terribly uncomfortable.

  1. Stack three or four single-folded blankets that are at least the length of the distance between your knees to your ankles on top of each other.

  2. Kneel on the blankets in with your feet hanging off the edge and with the feet wider than your hips.

  3. Sit back between your feet with ankles fully supported on the blankets and the feet hanging off the edge.

  4. If you then feel discomfort in your knees and hips, try the second version above by placing another folded blanket or block under your hips.

Propping yourself well in Virasana can help prepare you for other seated poses. Virasana balances sitting in Sukhasana (Cross-Legged or Easy Pose) or one of the many other externally rotated seated positions. You may also able to gauge more tolerance in the pose if your prop settings change over time or even in the duration of a single practice. Prop yourself for seated success. 

 

Bobbie Ellis, YogaUOnline teacher, Somatics and Yoga, Online YogaU courses

 

 

Allison Schleck, writer, Yoga teacher, contributorAllison Ray Jeraci, E-RYT 500, RPYT, is a vinyasa-based yoga teacher, fascinated by the intricate relationship between the mind and body. She offers a range of alignment-focused classes touching on anatomy, philosophy, and creative propping with a mindful approach.  In addition to teaching group classes and managing the Yoga Culture studio in Danbury, CT, she also teaches at Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester, NY, empowering mothers-to-be with prenatal yoga classes and childbirth education. You can find her @allisonschleck on Instagram and www.allisonrayjeraci.com.