Sunday, 5 October 2014

Virasana in detail

Virasana is a wonderful posture for keeping your thighs stretched, knees mobile and healthy. Practise it with care as part of a well-rounded asana program that includes standing poses and other postures that strengthen the quadriceps and other leg muscles, and you will reap its benefits for a lifetime.
Eventually this is a resting pose, but initially it can be felt as a stretching pose.   Most people like to have a folded blanket spread across their mat so there is not so much pressure on the knees and tops of the feet.

If your sitting bones are not sat firmly on the ground, then use block(s) or folded blankets under your buttocks to help you take your weight onto your sitting bones and out of your knees.

To come into the asana:

(1) Kneel with your knees together. Roll the flesh of your calves manually (with your hands), rolling the skin and muscles gently out to the sides as you sit back onto the floor (or your support).   It helps to begin this action with your fingertips right into the flesh directly behind your knees.

(2) Remain seated and release the skin at the front of your knees by raising each knee one at a time with your hands. 

(3) Take the skin and bones of your buttocks back and outward on the floor (or your support).

Keep your knees together and your feet parallel.   Do not let your feet turn out to the sides or turn inward.   Try to be on the centre top of each foot.   Actively lengthen out through all your toes straight back and spread them slightly.   Press the outsides of the tops of your feet (little toe sides) to the floor as much as the insides (big toe sides).   Probably this means you need to press your little toes down more and turn your inner heels upward toward the ceiling.   Your heels should be touching the sides of your hips (or your support).   Your inner calves should be touching your outer thighs.   Turn your calves out to press your outer shinbones down.  

Note in this pose that you can slide your hands between your feet and your outer hips - do not have your feet tucked under your buttocks as in Vajrasana.   In Virasana, you sit between your feet.

The thighs have a tendency to fall inward in this pose.   Revolve your thighs and knees outward enough so that your thighs face the ceiling and your shins are perpendicular to the floor.   You want your inner knees to lift and roll outward (the inner knee rolling toward the outer knee).   The action to lift the inner knees is to press your outer shins and little toes downward to balance the thighs' tendency to roll inward.   Feel as though your thighs are as heavy as possible, sinking toward the floor, weighting your buttock bones down firmly into the floor if possible. Indeed you can practise this pose with sandbags on your top thighs once you are familiar with it.

Actions of the torso
Establish Tadasana in your torso.   Lift your side ribs and torso up out of your pelvis.   Raise the top of your sternum upward away from your pubic bone strongly.   The idea behind lifting your sternum toward the ceiling and lengthening the front of your torso is not to make you look good, but to give you deep space in your torso in which to breathe.   Lengthen the line up from your sacrum through the crown of your head while you are continuing to ground through your buttock bones.   Also take care to establish Tadasana in your pelvis, so your sacrum and coccyx are lengthening & moving under, not back.

Actions of the hands, arms, and shoulders
Draw both your shoulder blades into and down your back to assist in expanding your chest.   Rotate both arms outward and place your palms on the soles of your feet, also to assist you in opening your chest. If you are sitting on a support in might be better to place your hands on your thighs instead.

To come out of the pose:
Come up on to ‘all fours’, cross your legs behind you as if to come into Sukhasana and then sit back through Sukhasana into Dandasana, extending your legs straight out in front of you.   It's important to do something to straighten your knees for a few moments after the pose to "reset".
Don’t force. Teachers and students should never force Virasana at any level.
Avoid pain. If you feel pain anywhere in the pose (especially in the knees), stop immediately and discuss the pose with your teacher.
Prop up. Don’t sit with your sitting bones hovering! Use appropriate support to enable you to firmly ground the sitting bones. Your teacher will help you select the correct support for you.
Work gradually. Don’t go too fast. It takes time for your body to move deeper into poses. Your hips will lower in due time, over many practice sessions, lowering props as needed.
Point the feet in line with the shins. This provides the best alignment for the knees. In particular, avoid turning the feet outward.
Avoid overstretching the knees. The knees need the stability that their ligaments provide, so don’t encourage movements that stretch them too much. If you feel strong sensations within or around the knee joints in the pose, there’s a good chance you are stretching ligaments. Stop and tell your teacher!
Keep the ankles near the hips. Thus minimising stress on the inner knee ligament.
Final note

Everyone’s knees are different. One adjustment for your friend may be totally inappropriate for you. Practise at home is fantastic…but keep talking (and listening) to your teacher. Our bodies are not static, they change over time, so you should make sensitive, intelligent adjustments to your practise and always listen to your body.