How to: Hero PoseStarting on your hands and knees slowly sit back onto your heels. The most important part of this pose is to constantly check that the tops of your feet are on the floor, bottoms of the feet are completely facing up. Try to have your thighs together, unless you feel strain in the knees, then, separate them accordingly. This is basically the entire pose, although there are many subtleties too. For some just sitting back on the heels can prove to be painful. If this is the case place a block on the floor between your feet and sit back on the block until you are secure and open enough to take it away. You want to get to the point where you can sit up nice and tall while sitting on the heels. Press the shins and tops of the feet into the earth and ground through the little toe side of the foot. Lift your rib cage evenly and lengthen through the crown of your head. Relax your shoulders. If you are extremely tight or are rehabbing from knee surgery then roll up a towel behind your knees and then sit back. This will reduce any risk of over flexion of the knee.
Rest your hands on your thighs and relax into your breath. If you have no pain in the knees and the ankles and shins are open and flexible enough, then move deeper into the pose by separating the feet gently roll the thighs inward and try to sit on the floor between your feet. It will take time and practice to deepen this pose. Try to remain tall and lifted and not round the back at all.
Benefits of Hero PoseThe role of Hero pose is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Increases flexibility in hips, legs and knees
- Encourages proper alignment in hips, legs and knees
- Opens hips
- Stretches quads
- Encourages and trains internal rotation
- Strengthens the low back while lengthening the spine
- Good for virility
For the Lay person or yogi, hero's pose is a great pose to align the body and find comfort in to meditate. It gives the practitioner the opportunity to strengthen the back and spine. At the same time open the chest and heart and help increase lung capacity. It is a great cooling pose to find your center and add some shoulder stretches at the same time. It stimulates and brings blood and oxygen to the root chakra, which is beneficial to people suffering from reproductive problems or sexual issues past and present.
For the athlete, I teach this pose with two variations.
Toes tucked: This helps athletes who rely on speed and agility open up the plantar fascia of the foot. It opens under the toes contributing to increased speed. Most importantly it stretches and keeps supple the vulnerable Achilles tendon. This pose is a must for soccer players, runners, wide receivers, tennis players and basketball players who need explosive feet.
Toes untucked: As mention above, this variation is great to keep the shins free of strain and the tops of the feet open, again contributing to increased speed.
Doing these variations also helps athletes stay away from dreaded turf toe. By keep the toes as flexible as possible the impact that they face day in and day out play after play is lessened and cases of turf toe reduced.
Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained Yoga teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:
- Modifications should be made if you are currently suffering knee pain
- Modifications can be made if you have just had surgery
- If you have pins and plates in your knees you should avoid this pose all together
- Recently ankle surgery
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body!
Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen’s unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy, nutrition and homeopathy, provide her clients, class participants and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga instructor for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, and the Pace University baseball team; as well as many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea. Visit her website at www.poweryogaforsports.com