Reclining Hero Pose
Reclining Hero Pose is a supine (lying-down) variation of Hero Pose (Virasana), which provides an even deeper stretch to the thighs, hip flexors, and ankles than the upright version. If you spend a lot of time sitting, you might be familiar with tight hip flexors and quadriceps (your top thigh muscles). This tightness can lead to an over-arching of your low back, resulting in poor posture and possible back pain. Reclining Hero Pose stretches out these leg and hip muscles, which restores balance and equilibrium to your back.
Its Sanskrit name — “Supta Virasana” — comes from three words: “Supta” — meaning “reclining”, “Vira” — meaning “hero”, “Asana” — meaning “pose”. This variation is only suitable for those who can sit with ease in Hero Pose (Virasana). Depending on your flexibility, it might take a long time for you to comfortably access the full version of Hero, with the buttocks fully on the floor. Attempting Supta Virasana before you can sit in Virasana can lead to injury, fast! So, take your time and remember there aren’t prizes for achieving poses quickly! Once you feel comfortable in Virasana, you can begin to access the reclined version.
In Bikram Yoga, this pose is referred to as "Fixed-Firm Pose".
Benefits of Reclining Hero Pose
This pose stretches the abdominal organs and the pelvic region. In effect, it improves digestion and relieves digestive problems, such as gas, acidity, and diarrhea. It is one of the only yoga poses that is beneficial to practice after eating! By opening up the chest, torso, and pelvic area, Supta Virasana provides therapeutic benefits to many discomforts of the upper and mid-body, including head colds, headaches, asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, and menstrual pain.
This pose also increases mobility and blood flow in the hip flexors, thighs, and knees, which can help to relieve sciatica and varicose veins. It provides relief for aching and tired legs, and is known to cure flat feet. Reclining Hero Pose stretches and strengthens the ankles and improves flexibility in the spine. With time, Reclining Hero can become a restful and restorative pose, used to deeply renew the entire body.
Do not practice Supta Virasana if you are currently suffering from heart problems or headaches. If you have a knee, back, or ankle injury, only attempt this pose under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor. Only practice this pose if you can correctly and comfortably perform Hero Pose, with your buttocks resting easily on the floor between your feet.
How to Do Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)
- Begin kneeling on the floor with your inner knees together and your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Open your feet slightly wider than your hips. Keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your big toes angled in toward each other. Press down evenly across the tops of both feet.
- Exhaling, sit down between your feet. Rest your weight equally across both sit bones. Keep your feet directly in line with your shins. Do not let your feet either splay wide open or turn inward. This is Hero Pose (Virasana).
- Once you feel comfortable in Virasana, place your hands on the floor behind you. Lean your weight into your hands, then lower your elbows and forearms to the floor.
- If you are confident and comfortable with no pain, continue to lower yourself all the way to the floor. Allow your thigh bones to release deep into your hip sockets. Beginners may have the knees slightly apart (an inch or two); those with more flexibility should keep the thighs pressing together. Do not let your knees splay wider than your hips.
- Rest your arms at your sides. Draw your inner groin up and into your pelvis. Lift your sternum, create length between your vertebrae, and broaden across your collarbones.
- Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest, and softly gaze down the center line of your body.
- Hold the pose for up to one minute. As you gain flexibility, and the pose becomes restful, you can stay in it for 5-10 minutes.
- To release the pose, press your weight into your forearms. Slowly come onto your hands, and gently press yourself back into Virasana. Cross your ankles and shins beneath your body, and then extend your legs straight out in front of you in Staff Pose (Dandasana).
Since Hero Pose (Virasana) is the foundation for Reclining Hero Pose, it’s important to fully understand the correct alignment of Hero Pose.
Reclining Hero Pose for Beginners
The seated version of virasana is intense enough for many beginners. As noted above, you must be careful about reclining if you are using a prop under your butt. The ideal prop in this situation would be a bolster. Sit with your butt on the end of the bolster and your feet on either side. When you lie back, the bolster supports the whole length of your spine.
- If you cannot yet recline fully on the floor, place a bolster or a stack of folded blankets behind your body before coming into the pose. Rest on the bolster or blankets with your spine and head fully supported. Experiment with various levels of height until you find one that is right for you.
Supta Virasana can stretch and open up the entire front side of the body when done with correct alignment. It’s important to come into the pose slowly, use props if needed, and make whatever modifications you need to feel safe and supported as you gain flexibility.
Reclining Hero Pose for Advanced
Practicing Supta Virasana correctly and regularly will provide many benefits to your whole body. To deepen the pose, stretch your arms up toward the ceiling, parallel to each other and perpendicular to the floor. Broaden across your shoulder blades, then reach your arms overhead, resting the backs of your hands on the floor. Bend your elbows, draw your shoulder blades down once more, and take hold of each elbow.
- You can intensify the pose by extending your arms on the floor above your head.
- You may also want to work up to longer hold times.
A Relaxed Hero
Regularly practicing Supta Virasana will result in greater flexibility, normalized digestion, and improved posture. As you become more comfortable in the pose, you may discover a profound sense of calmness and peace while reclining. By restoring balance to your body, Supta Virasana also restores equanimity to your mind and spirit. Allow yourself to rest in the pose and relax like a yoga hero, in stillness and serenity.