Good morning! I’d really prefer to be back in bed, so this morning is a perfect time to share one of my favorite reclined (supta) restorative poses, Supportive Yoga style! When I was younger and more limber, the full version of supta virasana (reclined hero’s pose) was one of my favorites. But then when my body changed so drastically about 3.5 years ago (gained a lot of weight really quickly and lost a lot of mobility), it was one of the poses I thought would never feel good again. What I realized during teacher training and workshops later on is that because there is so much going on in this pose, you really have to take extra care getting in and out of it. Also, you may need a lot of support/props to make it feel ok.
Virasana is really great for your knees, if done correctly and with the proper support, but can be absolutely killer if not supported to the level your body needs. For those of you new to the pose, you sit up on your shins, bring your knees together and you feet far enough apart so you can sit your butt (butts again!) down to the mat in between your ankles. Most people need some sort of elevation to keep their knees happy, so you will probably want to place a block or bolster under your butt so you don’t have so far to go when you sit down. Make sure once you are situated that your feet are pointing straight back and they are outside of your hips to prevent ankle unhappiness.
In Virasana, you may find that your knees pop up off the floor or you have pain in your shins. If that happens, place a blanket or two under your shins so that your knees aren’t floating. If you feel pain or numbness in your ankles and feet, come out of the pose, place a blanket on your mat and try again – you should feel better.
But wait, there’s more! (in a thick Brooklyn accent a la My Cousin Vinny)
To recline the pose, you’ll want to set up a bolster on a diagonal using two blocks. You can play with how you place the blocks to adjust the height of the bolster. See the picture below:
Then, go ahead and set your self up into virasana as described above with the bolster just touching the bottom of your sacrum. Slowly begin the recline into the bolster and block set up, tucking your tailbone under slightly to make sure you don’t arch your lower back too much. Once your back is comfortably reclined onto the bolster, rest your hands wherever you feel comfortable. I’ve given two options in the photos below – on my feet or above my head. Once you are comfortable, you can stay here as long as feels good. Relax and release into the support of the props to allow the restorative pose to do its work.
Now, depending of your body structure and level of mobility, you may have to play around with how steep/high the bolster is. You can remove or add blocks, change which side they are on etc…The day of the photo shoot, I was feeling like I could recline the pose further, so for my next attempt I removed one of the blocks to make the incline of the bolster more shallow. You can see in the picture below that the adjusted prop set up has allowed me to recline a little further.
When you come out of the pose, it’s best to extend the legs straight back (you can do this from hands and knees pose) so you don’t torque the knees and can give them a chance to gently straighten out.
Remember, props aren’t crutches, they are enhancers. Some days, I will need more support to enjoy this pose rather than less. The props allow me to enjoy the benefits of a pose that I once thought was lost to me and I am so grateful. Try it out, and as always, let me know if you have questions in the comments!