Want to learn more about Supta Virasana, or Reclined Hero Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Supta Virasana, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, a step-by-step video, modifications, and more.
I love long-distance cycling and I also walk an average of 6 kilometres per day (according to my iPhone Health app), so I find Supta Virasana is a bit of a life-saver. Or more accurately Supta Virasana is a leg- and knee-saver.
This is a pose that you can be pretty much guaranteed I will do after a long bike ride or after a long walk. I find spending time is Supta Virasana after cycling or hiking is one of the best things I can do to stretch out those hard-to-get spots. It is also beneficial to help counter the side-effects from long hours of standing.
I usually start in Vajrasana (sitting on my heels), progress to Virasana (sitting between my heels) as my muscles start to stretch out, and then stay in Virasana for a little before shifting into Supta Virasana.
I love the stretch this gives to the front of my ankles and shins. This is an area we don’t have a lot of stretches for, and we can easily overlook. But trust me: it feels great and really helps.
I have pretty flexible/long quads, so I find it tough to get a good thigh stretch. Reclined Hero Pose does it for me though. And if I need a little more stretch I just add a very slight posterior tilt to my pelvis (aka tailbone tuck) and voila — more quad stretch!
If you’re not sure what the heck I mean by all of this, keep reading. This post will teach you how to do it too.
- Supta Virasana Quick Facts
- Supta Virasana Benefits
- Precautions & Contraindications
- Misconceptions & Myths About Reclined Hero Pose
- Supta Virasana Pose Breakdown
- Modifications & Variations
- Yoga Poses Related to Reclined Hero Pose
- Related Posts & Videos
- Gear & Resources for This Pose
- A Final Note About Reclined Hero Pose
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Supta Virasana Quick Facts
|English||Reclined Hero Pose or Reclining Hero Pose|
|Meaning||Supta means supine, or lying down on your back.|
Vira means hero.
Asana means pose or posture.
Supta Virasana means Lying Down Hero Pose, and is often translated as Reclined Hero Pose or Reclining Hero Pose.
Supta Virasana Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Supta Virasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Supta Virasana include:
- Stretches the front of your ankles and shins.
- Stretches your quadriceps (thigh muscles).
- Stretches the muscles that cross the front of your knees
- Psoas muscles can get a great stretch if you bring your back towards the ground.
- Expands your chest which helps unround your shoulders.
- Strengthens your transverse abdominus and rectus abdominus when you engage them to make your spine straight (as opposed to arching your back).
- The variation of Reclining Hero Pose with your arms overhead helps passively deepen your shoulder flexion.
- Helps alleviate the side-effects of long hours of standing.
- When practiced with feet straight / parallel to each other it helps strengthen your transverse arch in your feet which will help alleviate flat feet.
- If you have chromic back pain, practicing a well-aligned Supta Virasana can help reduce your pain levels.
- Some people with sciatica and arthritis can find relief from the symptoms while practicing Reclining Hero Pose.
I freaking love science
A scientific study shows that Supta Virasana, as well as other yoga poses and meditation help in relieving the physical and emotional symptoms of fibromyalgia, stress and anxiety. There was a significant improvement in the overall health status of the participants and in symptoms of stiffness, anxiety, and depression.
A study of 14-26 year-olds with Irritable Bowel Syndrome found that a practice of Iyengar Yoga, including Supta Virasana as part of the sequence, is a safe supplementary treatment for young people with IBS. Roughly one-third of young adult participants reported a reduction in discomfort after the yoga sessions.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
Hero-Heroine Pose is a paradox. Although it is not recommended for those who have any variety of knee injuries or undiagnosed knee pain, many students have found that it can help cure these very dysfunctions. Therefore, if you have significant knee pain or a knee injury, then practice this pose only under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.”
30 Essential Yoga Poses For Beginning Students and Their Teachers, by Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.
This quote highlights the great paradox of yoga poses. The phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” can be true about some yoga poses, too. When I first injured my neck in 2009, one of the tools in my recovery was Sirsasana 1 (Headstand). That might seem counter-intuitive, but certain poses can make injuries better — or worse if you don’t have good form and a skilled teacher to help.
Many articles I read researching this post said, “You should avoid Reclined Hero if you have back, knee, or ankle problems.”
That is very good advice. However as Judith Lasater points out above, many students have found it can help cure a variety of knee issues. In my own experience, when my knees hurt from twisting and turning too much (I have some meniscus degeneration), I sit in Virasana and Supta Virasana and the pain tends to go away.
As a good general rule, if you feel any pain come out of the pose.
If your foot begins to cramp, try curling your toes and tucking them under a few times. Massaging the arch of your foot can help as well.
There are different variations for what your feet can do in this pose (see Modifications and Variations below) but as a good rule do not let your knees go wider than your sit bones, and do not let you feet go much wider than your hips.
- If you have high blood pressure, it is best to keep your head above your heart. Do not go all the way back into the fully reclined shape. You may also want to practice Ardha Virasana, with one leg stretched out in front, and the other folded back in Virasana.
- If you have lower back pain, avoid the pose or modify using a yoga bolster. See Modifications below.
- If you recently had a hip replacement, please avoid practicing Supta Virasana.
- If you have heart problems, listen to your body (and your doctor) and practice cautiously.
- If you have varicose veins in your legs, do not stay in this pose for an extended period of time.
- If you are pregnant and in your third trimester, your knee ligaments may be too loose to practice Reclined Hero Pose comfortably.
- If you are in your third trimester, you may also find that your thighs or lower legs are too swollen for you to enjoy the pose for more than a couple of breaths.
Misconceptions & Myths About Reclined Hero Pose
Is this the same as Saddle Pose?
Yes. And no. Saddle Pose is a supported pose that has the same shape as Supta Virasana but it is always practiced with lots of props. It is part of the Yin Yoga practice, and so you are meant to stay in the pose for a long period of time.
This article from Ekhart Yoga does a great job of explaining the differences between Supta Virasana and Saddle Pose.
Is this is same pose as Paryankasana B?
Again the answer is yes. And no. Paryankasana B is a pose in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga school and it looks very similar to Supta Virasana, except that the pose is done with a backbend. The back of your head rests on the ground, but your back is off the ground. This version is also called Couch Pose in English.
Is Supta Virasana a restorative pose?
I see this come up time and time again. And it is sort of true. I mean, go back and read my opening. I definitely use this pose to help restore my body after a long hike or bike ride. So it is a restorative pose.
However, when we use the term “restorative” in yoga it often refers to a practice that includes lots of props and settling in to poses for extended periods of time.
So this is where the answer to the question gets a little complicated. When you practice Supta Virasana with a bunch of props — say a bolster under your spine, a cushion under your head, a strap around your thighs, and an eye pillow over your eyes — and stay there for several minutes it fits into the category of yoga called restoratives.
This is very different from my “I stretch my ankles and shins and feel my energy is restored.” Even though it would be correct to describe this as “being restorative,” that is very different in the yoga world from “Restorative Yoga.”
When you practice this pose more actively — really pushing your toes down, stretching your knees and ASIS away from each other, doing a slight posterior pelvic tilt, toning your abdominals, and flexing your arms up and overhead, holding your elbows — Supta Virasana is FAR from a restorative pose. Instead, it is a very active pose that strengthens and stretches much more than your quads, shins and ankles.
Supta Virasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Supta Virasana / Reclined Hero Pose
If you are new to Virasana or Supta Virasana, I recommend you start with a folded yoga blanket or a yoga block between your ankles so that you can sit on it.
If you are sitting on a prop, I recommend you do not lie down all the way. Leaning back onto your forearms will likely be enough to receive the benefits of Supta Virasana. Going too far back with your hips lifted will cause excessive arching in your lower back.
- Sit on your heels in Vajrasana.
- Touch your hands to the ground and lift your hips off your feet.
- Separate your feet so that your inner heels are outer hip width apart. Keep your feet straight. Stretching back through your big toes can help keep your feet parallel.
- If your calf muscles tend to roll to one side of your shin bone (this is very common), use your hands to move your calf muscles so they are centered under your upper legs.
- Slowly lower your hips (keeping your calf muscles in place with your hands as needed) and sit down on the ground between your heels. If sitting on the ground isn’t possible, you may sit on a prop.
- This is Virasana or Hero Pose.
- Place your hands on the ground behind you, widen and bend your elbows. Lower your torso.
- Hug elbows in and lower down onto your forearms with your forearms parallel to each other, fingers pointing forward.
- Tone your pelvic floor (Mula Bandha) and tone your belly (Uddiyana Bandha). If you are using a prop under your hips this is Supta Virasana for you today.
- Move your elbows wider and lower your torso down to the ground so that you are lying on your back, with your legs still in Virasana.
- Tuck your butt a little (a slight posterior tilt). Move the front of your ribs down towards the ground.
- Push down through the top of your feet and, without moving your knees, stretch forward through your knees.
- You can keep you arms at your sides, place one hand over your heart and one over your belly, or hold your elbows overhead.
- This is Supta Virasana.
- To come out, exit as you entered (but in reverse obviously!). Dandasana (Staff Pose) or Phalakasana (Plank Pose) are great poses to get the fluids flowing back through your knee joints after practicing this pose.
Modifications & Variations
What to do with your hands
You have a few options:
- You can keep you arms are your sides, resting like they would in Savasana.
- You can place one hand over your heart and one over your belly.
- You can hold your elbows overhead so your arms rest on the ground.*
*If you have tight shoulders they may not come all the way back and down to the ground. You can hold them in the air, or stack some yoga blocks or yoga blankets so that you can rest your arms on the props.
If your thighs move apart
You might find your thighs sliding apart in this pose. To avoid this, use a yoga strap to bind your thighs together, or squeeze a yoga block between your thighs. The block is my preferred choice as it helps you activate your leg adductors. This helps build the strength you need to keep your legs in place without the prop.
If your knees separate
It is ok if your knees are apart some, just make sure they stay close to each other rather than letting them go too wide. This helps protect your knee joints.
If you would like help, you can take a yoga strap and tie it around your legs so that they don’t move too far apart.
If your knees hurt
It can be painful for some people to sit with their knee joint closed all the way. You can roll up a yoga blanket or a yoga mat and place it behind your knees and you sit down.
If you choose this option you will also need some yoga blocks or folded blankets under your hips as you will not be able to bring your hips all the way to the ground. You will also want to stay upright, or lean back just a little, if you are using this prop variation.
If your back won’t come to the ground
Place a yoga bolster on your mat so that you can lie down and have the bolster support the length of your spine. You may want a folded yoga blanket to go under your head as well.
Tone your transverse abdominus (think about drawing the sides of your waist in towards your navel a little) and rectus abdominus (think about moving your sternum and pubic bones towards each other a little). This will help engage your spine at the same time as stretching your psoas to help bring the back of your rib cage closer to the ground.
If your hips won’t come to the ground
You can sit on a folded yoga blanket or on a yoga block in between your feet — this effectively brings the ground up to you. Problem solved.
If you are using a yoga block, turn it so the widest edge is parallel to the short edge of your mat and sit down on the block. The lowest setting with the block is the most stable, so I recommend setting the block on the low setting and stacking more than one block if you need more height.
If you are using a blanket, you can fold the blanket to the proper thickness for the support you need. Place it on the ground between your ankles so you can sit on it.
If you want to add in the reclining aspect of the pose, you have to work to avoid overarching your lower back because your hips are lifted by the props. Place a yoga bolster behind you so that when you start to go back you can lie down on the bolster. You may need to add some blankets on top of the bolster to make it high enough for you to lean back onto comfortably.
If your quads hurt coming into the pose
You can sit on a yoga block or yoga blanket as described in “If your hips won’t come to the ground,” above.
In Light on Yoga, Mr. Iyengar offers four different foot placement options that he ranks easiest to hardest as follows:
- Feet turned in and one foot stacked on the other, hips resting on feet.
- Feet turned in, big toes touching, hips resting on feet.
- Feet turned in, bit toes apart, hips resting on feet.
- Feet parallel to each other, hips on the ground between feet.
If you get stuck coming out of the pose
You can roll onto one side and extend your legs out to untangle yourself from Reclined Hero Pose.
Variations of Supta Virasana
You can try a single leg version of Supta Virasana with one leg folded back, and the other leg with your foot on the floor and your knee pointing up. This can be helpful if you find you can’t access the thigh stretch because you are so focused on your back.
Ardha Supta Virasana is a similar variation, except that one leg is in Supta Virasana and the other is straight out in front of you, resting on the ground.
Lie back onto a bolster or stack of cushions, using as many as you need to be able to release muscular effort. This turns Reclined Hero into a great restorative pose.
Yoga Poses Related to Reclined Hero Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward-Facing Dog Pose
- Natarajasana / Lord of the Dance Pose or simply Dancer
- Gomukhasana / Cow-Faced Pose
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Vajrasana / Thunderbolt Pose
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana / Low Lunge
- Banarasana / High Lunge
- Virasana / Hero Pose
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana / Bridge Pose
- Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
- Matsyasana / Fish Pose
- Dandasana / Staff Pose
- Viaprita Karani / Legs Up The Wall Pose
- Virasana / Hero Pose
- Baddha Konasana / Bound Angle Pose
- Purvottanasana / Upward Plank Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Anjaneyasana / Son of Anjani Pose
- Padmasana / Lotus Pose
- Dhanurasana / Bow Pose
- Ustrasana / Camel Pose
- Urdhva Dhanurasana / Full Wheel aka Upward Bow Pose
- Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana / Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: Vajrasana Benefits & Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Post: How to do Ustrasana – Benefits & Yoga Pose Tutorial
- Video: Yoga Pose Breakdown — Supta Virasana
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Stephen’s Corq Cork Yoga Mat
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Organic Cotton or Hemp Yoga Bolsters
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
Save 10% on cork yoga gear
- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
- Use our code AYO10 for 10% off all Corq yoga mats.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Reclined Hero Pose
What you get out of a pose depends a lot on what you put into the pose. And Supta Virasana definitely follows this rule. You get to choose what kind of experience you want in Supta Virasana.
- If you want to stretch your quads while strengthening your core and spine, you can do that in Reclined Hero Pose.
- If you want to prop it up and settle in for several minutes of a meditative variation of the pose, you can.
- Do you need to stretch out your legs after a long day? Supta Virasana is perfect for helping with that.
That’s one of the great things about this pose — it helps with so many different things, depending on where you place your focus. But it all starts with practicing the pose and seeing what works for you. So get practicing!
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post helps you find ways that Reclined Hero Pose can help support you on your yoga adventure, and that it has been helpful in expanding your understanding and possibilities with Supta Virasana.
I want these posts to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply and see fairly common pose with new awareness and understanding. The more you understand about each pose the more it will help you find the strength and clarity needed to live your adventure to the fullest!