Here are some of the reasons why Hero Pose is good for you:
- Stretches muscles of the thighs, knees, ankles and tops of feet
- Increases range of motion of the hips by creating an internal rotational stretch
- Opens hips and back of the pelvis
- Strengthens core muscles and improves core efficiency
- Supports digestive functions
- Elongates spine
In order to do Hero Pose correctly, here are the steps:
- Begin on all fours in a table top position.
- Bring knees together to touch.
- Keeping knees together, separate feet away from each other so they are as wide apart as possible.
- Slowly sit down between your feet, pressing your sitting bones firmly against the ground. You may need to manually rotate your calves outward to make space for the fold at the knees.
- Engage your core by bringing your belly button in toward your spine and lifting it slightly toward your diaphragm. Allow the low back to flatten and sink down toward the floor as the belly lifts in and up.
- Relax your shoulders down away from your ears.
- Keep your head centered over your spine with your chin parallel to the floor. Gently lift the crown of the head toward the sky elongating your neck.
- Rest your arms loosely at your side.
Do This, Not That! Common mistakes beginners make:
Straining the knees: It is common for students of any experience level to want to push themselves to go as deep as possible into a pose. There is a false belief that giving maximum effort gives maximum benefit. But, the truth is a little more nuanced. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to contorting the body in various postures. To gain benefit, it is important not to cause injury. Many people are suffering from tightness in the legs and the tendons and ligaments that support the knees. Trying to force the knees into a deeper bend than they are ready for can lead to pain and injury. See the modifications section to learn how to perform Hero’s Pose without straining the knees.
Incorrect alignment of the ankles and feet: It’s not always easy to understand exactly where to place the feet and ankles in Hero’s Pose. The best way to align the feet is to keep them in line with the shins and the soles of the feet facing the sky. If you are unable to do this while sitting between your heels, you can modify the pose to make it easier to get the correct ankle and foot positions. (See Modifications section below.)
Separating the knees: It can be a challenge to keep the knees together in Hero’s Pose, especially for beginners. However, it’s important to do so to maintain the integrity of the stretch, as well as safe alignment for the joints. Modifications can make this easier as you gain the strength and flexibility to keep the knees together for the duration of the pose. (See below.)
Collapsing the spine: Hero’s Pose can be deceptively challenging. Sometimes getting the legs into position can take a great deal of effort and may leave you feeling tired. It is a common mistake to give in to this fatigue by collapsing the spine, slumping the shoulders forward and curling the tailbone under. This is incorrect. The spine should be tall and active with an engaged core providing support for the upper body. Let the shoulders relax down away from the ears as the collarbones stretch out away from each other. The upper body is learning strength and stability while the lower body is getting deep stretching in the hips, knees, ankles, thighs, shins and feet.
Props and Modifications
You should consider a modification if you experience the following:
- Pain, numbness/tingling or restriction in the knees, hips, ankles or feet
- Uncomfortable shoulder tension
- Back pain/discomfort
Pain, numbness/tingling or restriction in the knees, hips, ankles or feet:
- Sit on a block (in the low or medium height position) or bolster positioned so that the seat is supported with the legs on either side resting on the floor. This elevates the seat, decreasing the angle of the bend in the knees and hips.
- A more substantial modification that is especially useful for those who have had knee injuries and/or surgeries is to sit on one or two blocks (in the tallest height position) with a bolster or rolled towel/blanket placed horizontally behind your knees.
- If your ankles feel discomfort here, or your feet tend to cramp easily in this position, you can place a rolled blanket or towel beneath your ankles. It is usually helpful to elevate the seat with a block or bolster to provide more space for this modification. However, it may not be necessary depending on how much ankle elevation is required.
- It can be helpful to place a folded blanket or yoga knee pad cushion beneath your legs during this pose. It can provide some soft protection to your ankles and knees. You can also place other props, such as blocks or bolsters, on top of this blanket as needed.
Uncomfortable shoulder tension:
- Place blocks on either side of your legs, directly beneath your shoulders. Place your hands palms down on the blocks pressing gently as you lower your shoulders down your back away from your ears. This helps to properly position your shoulders to alleviate unnecessary tension.
- Alternatively, you can hold a block between your hands as you lift your arms out in front of your chest. Continue to lower your shoulder blades down your back and away from your ears.
- Place your hands above your knees or in the creases where your thighs meet your trunk. Press gently to engage your core and more actively elongate your spine.
- If you have a pole or pillar available, you can do this pose seated with your back against it. This allows you to keep your feet on either side of the pole/pillar while supporting your spine in an upright position.
F. Common questions:
- Can I do Hero Pose if I’ve had knee surgery?
- What muscles does Hero Pose work?
- When is Hero Pose contraindicated?
- Can the knees be apart in Hero Pose?
- What is the proper position for the ankles in Hero Pose?
Can I do Hero Pose if I’ve had knee surgery?
Check with your healthcare provider to find out when it is safe to start practicing. In the beginning stages of repair/healing, modifications will be necessary. Once the knee is completely healed and rehabilitated, it is safe to practice the pose, though some may find that modifications are required due to a limited post-surgery range of motion.
What muscles does Hero Pose work?
Hero Pose works all muscles of the legs with most intense stretching of the front of the ankles, the knees and the quadriceps. The core muscles of the abdominals and the back are engaged and strengthened. The hips are opened via internal rotation, stretching the piriformis (muscle of hip rotation that lies just over the sciatic nerve) and surrounding deep hip muscles.
When is Hero Pose contraindicated?
Acute knee and/or ankle pain/injury would be contraindicated for Hero Pose. Once the acute phase has passed, and a healthcare provider has given the okay, Hero Pose can be practiced with modifications until the injuries have been fully repaired.
Can the knees be apart in Hero Pose?
The correct alignment for the knees in Hero Pose is to have them together. There are some instances, however, when it may make sense to modify the pose by separating the knees to hip’s width apart, such as excessively tight hips. (See the Modifications section above for more ideas on how to modify this pose for tight hips.)
What is the proper position for the ankles in Hero Pose?
The correct alignment for the ankles in Hero Pose is to have the tops of the ankles resting on the ground beside the hips. The sole of the foot should be facing the sky, and the ankle should remain in line with the rest of the lower leg.