Virasana (Sanskrit: वीरासन; IAST: vīrāsana) or Hero Pose is a kneeling asana in modern yoga as exercise. Medieval hatha yoga texts describe a cross-legged meditation asana under the same name. Supta Virasana is the reclining form of the pose; it provides a stronger stretch.
Etymology and origins
The name virasana is ancient, being found in the 8th century Patanjalayogashastravivarana (2.46-48) and the 13th century Vasishthasamhita (1.72), but in those texts the description is of a cross-legged meditation seat. The modern kneeling pose is found in 20th century texts such as B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga; it is mentioned also in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga texts (e.g. Maehle 2011, who recommends it for lengthening the quadriceps muscle).
The yoga scholar Mark Singleton notes that a pose similar to Supta Virasana was described in Niels Bukh's early 20th century Danish text Primitive Gymnastics. Swami Kuvalayananda incorporated Supta Virasana into his system of exercises in the 1920s, from where it was taken up by the influential yoga teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.
Virasana is a basic kneeling asana and the starting position for several forward and backwards bends and certain twists. Virasana may also be used as an alternative to other seated asanas such as the padmasana (lotus pose) for meditation. The pose is entered by kneeling down with the knees together, and separating the feet so that the buttocks can rest on the floor. Beginners may instead place one foot on top of the other and sit on them, or may place a cushion between the feet and sit on that to practice. The pose is one of the few that may be performed straight after eating.
Virasana places the knees at risk of injury if hip extension and rotation are inadequate, in which case the pose requires support under the buttocks to allow the hips to extend. The pose should be avoided if there is any existing knee injury.
Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero pose) has the body stretching forward and down, the hands reaching forward to the ground.
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