Supine or reclining yoga poses are done while lying on the back. The reclining hero pose or supta virasana is a backbend which is done from the seated hero pose or virasana. It is an intermediate yoga pose and must be attempted only after gaining some flexibility in the knees, legs, hips and the back. Do not try to perform the final position until you can sit your buttocks easily on the floor between your feet. This might take a few months to achieve.
The meaning of the Sanskrit words Supta Virasana is:
supta = reclining or supine
vira = hero, brave, chief
asana = pose
Supta Virasana or reclined hero pose like all backbend yoga poses increase the energy because they release the tension and blocked energy in the chest and pelvic regions. Backbends increase the strength and energy in the ankles, knees, quadriceps, abdominal organs, upper back, neck, shoulders, and arms. Supta virasana is a rejuvenating yoga pose. It is an excellent preparation for backbending poses.
Benefits of Reclined Hero Pose or Supta Virasana
There are many benefits to performing the reclined hero pose or supta virasana:
- stretches the groin and psoas (the deep vertical muscle in front of your hip)
- relaxes the whole body
- stretches the quadriceps
- increases strength in the ankles, knees and abdominal organs
- removes stiffness in the neck and shoulders
- Strengthens the arches
- Relieves tired legs
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieves the symptoms of menstrual pain
This pose helps to stretch those muscles in the legs which we usually forget to stretch in the course of our daily life or exercise practice.
How to Perform the Reclined Hero Pose or Supta Virasana
Supta virasana being an intermediate yoga pose requires that the student is flexible and strong in the thighs, knees and back. Some of the preparatory poses that can be done before attempting the reclined hero pose are baddha konasana, balasana or child's pose, bhujangasana or cobra pose, and especially virasana or hero pose.
There are two stages to achieving the final position in the supta virasana yoga pose:
- sit in Virasana or hero pose: sit between your feet by first supporting yourself with your hands and then slowly lowering your hips to the floor.
Lean back on your elbows:
- first lean back on your hands
- then lifting your hips an inch or two off the floor
- rotate the pelvis backward (cat tilt) letting the abdomen fall backward toward the spine as you tuck the coccyx under.
- Maintain this alignment of your centre as you lower your hips to the floor and come all the way down onto your elbows.
- Keep your head up, fingers touching the toes.
- Stay in this position and breathe smoothly until the sensations diminish somewhat before proceeding to the next step. If the stretch by leaning on your elbows is too intense, then straighten your arms and lean on your hands instead; gradually over a period of weeks or months, work your way toward being able to rest on your elbows.
Lift your hips off the floor:
- Pull the abdomen down as you do this, stretching the tailbone toward the knees and bringing your pelvis into a strong cat tilt – hips up, belly down, stretching toward the knees.
- Create the perfect degree of intensity – not too much, not too little. Do not sag into the shoulders.
- Press downward into your elbows and lift your chest.
- Hold your hips in this position for several breaths
Lie on your back:
- retaining the alignment of your pelvis in cat tilt, lower your buttocks to the floor
- slide your elbows apart
- come all the way down onto yoru back (see photo above)
- rest your arms by your sides or under your head like a pillow. This is the final position of the pose
- breathe smoothly
- stay in the pose from 30 seconds to 5 minutes
Virasana and Supta Virasana - Hero Pose and Reclining Hero Pose
Coming out of Supta Virasana Pose
When you sense that it is almost time to come out of the pose:
- interlace out your fingers
- turn the palms inside out
- reach your arms over your head to the floor
- pull the abdominals down as you stretch the knees and hands away from one another
- hold for 5-10 breaths, running energy through the shape that you now are and come out of the pose
- first onto your elbows, hands and hips (see video above)
Many injuries occur when coming out of the pose, hence it is important to unravel yourself out of the pose correctly.
Benefits of Backbends
The Reclined Hero Pose or Supta Virasana is an intense backbend and can take several months to master and reach the final position. We have to be gentle with ourselves and persistent to achieve it stage by stage. Backward bends are exhilarating, strengthening, opening and exploratory like all yoga poses. In performing them you are opening and going into areas of yourself that have probably never been opened.
Backbends gently open the chest, abdominal organs, pelvic region, and the whole front side of the body -- the tender vulnerable side. They help in releasing blocked energy and improve vital energy flow in all the areas we are closed up to protect ourselves such as the heart region and the pelvic region. Backbends open these closed areas while simultaneously building the strength needed to stay open.
It is worth practicing backbend poses not only as counterposes but also as important poses in themselves.
Schiffmann, Erich. Yoga: the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. Pocket Books, New York, 1996
About the Author
Sushma Webber writes content for both web and print media. She has worked as a volunteer in many not-for-profit organizations. She is interested in creating a balance in life between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. She is interested in mindful awareness practices, Zen practices and translating these in daily life at work in front of the computer and during various activities of her life.
Resources for Further Practice
- Yoga Poses for Hips
The hips and buttocks bear the weight or the human body and determine its balance. It is important to strengthen and ensure good muscle tone for easy movement and flexibility in daily life. Learn about some of the yoga poses that can benefit the hip
- Yoga Poses for the Spine
The spine is like the trunk of a tree, supporting the entire body structure. Taking care of it and maintaining its strength and flexibility is of primary importance. Find out some of the yoga poses that you can incorporate into your yoga practice.
- Camel Yoga Pose, Ustrasana
The Camel Pose or Ustrasana is an intermediate level kneeling backbend yoga pose. It stretches and strengthens the spine, thighs, abdomen and back muscles. It is an energizing and improves posture.
- How to Comfortably Sit Cross Legged in Yoga
Many of us take sitting cross legged on the floor for granted. However, are we in perfect balance and alignment when we sit on the floor. Find out how to sit correctly and for long periods to practice yoga, pranayama or meditation.