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Supta virasana, or reclining hero pose, is a yoga pose of intermediate difficulty that should not be attempted by beginners without the assistance of an instructor. In this pose, the practitioner lies flat on his or her back with the legs bent at the knee and calves and feet tucked under the thighs. The posture can be very beneficial, providing a healthy stretch across the entire front of the body and particularly in the hip flexors, thighs, and arches of the feet. As with all yoga asanas, it is important to maintain a slow, even breath, move slowly, and maintain an awareness of the body while in supta virasana.
To perform this exercise, the practitioner first sits in the hero pose, seated on the floor with the legs bent and tucked under the body. Then he or she lies down slowly on the floor, keeping the legs bent and thighs pressed together. The reclined posture increases the stretch across the front of the entire body and opens the heart center. It can be beneficial for people who spend most of their time working at a computer, as this kind of work can cause them to be hunched over, with tight neck and shoulder muscles.
To increase the stretch, supta virasana can be done with a partner. He or she can press down gently on the practitioner’s knees to increase the stretch in the quad muscles. The partner can also hold the knees together, as many beginning yoga students may have difficulty holding the legs straight in supta virasana. For someone who is practicing without a partner, using a strap across both knees is another way to keep them together. Allowing the knees to spread wider than the hips will increase stress on the lower back and hips. A yoga student who finds it difficult to keep the knees flat on the floor can place a folded blanket under them for added support.
As this is an intermediate-level yoga posture, care should be taken when moving out of reclining hero pose. To come up, the practitioner should hold his or her forearms against the floor and use them to raise the upper body. The practitioner should also lead with his or her chest when returning to a seated position and remember to keep the back as flat as possible. After returning to a seated position, the practitioner can move his or her legs to the side and then bring them around to the front.