Our minds pull us into battle all the time with people, institutions or things. But fighting with things outside of you is just a distraction from the real battle within. This is the timeless battle that was outlined in the Bhagavad Gita, one that asks us to put the mind and ego in their right size and place. Being heroic in a battle like this requires us to put down the weapons of our ego and embrace the unity between us and all other forms of life. It may sound easy, but this journey takes deep fortitude.
- Bhagavad Gita 4:18
Virasana is not as simple as sitting on the ground with your heels outside your hips, at least not if you want to practice asana for the rest of your life. To do it safely, your thighs and the fronts of your feet will gradually open over time so that your buttocks can one day rest on the floor between your heels. For most people, this means using a blanket, bolsters or pillows in the beginning. But the ego fights the use of props. It tells you to push beyond your limits in order to mirror the pose you see demonstrated by teachers who have been easing into it for decades. But ego is just like a plant -- all you have to do is stop feeding it and it will stop growing.
Using props for a safer Yoga practice
As you sit down in virasana, notice the tops of your knees. They should remain horizontal the entire time. If they turn inward (see our trouble spots below), sit on a prop. As your muscles extend over time, you will be able to use fewer and smaller props. Eventually, you will find that you will have won the battle with your ego and can sit on the floor with ahimsa for your body.
How to fold a blanket for virasana
We like to have several thick blankets on hand for this purpose. Folding a blanket in thirds, as shown in the photos below, creates the right-size prop that won’t push your heels too far outside your hips. Place the edge of the blanket just beneath your sit bones with the long end extending behind you.
Essence: Calming and grounding
Strength: Pelvic floor
Anchor: Front lower part of legs and sit bones
Virasana from the ground up
1. Start kneeling, knees hip-width distance apart. The insides of your feet should be just at the outside edges of your hips. Place your hands on the top of your thighs near the hip crease and externally rotate your thigh bones.
2. Sit down so that your buttocks come between your heels, ensuring that the tops of your knees are horizontal. If they start to turn inward (see trouble spots below), sit on a higher prop.
3. Place your palms on your thighs and extend the spine up from your pubic bone through the crown of your head. Breathe here for 15-25 breaths.
Common trouble spots
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Thighs turning inward. In the first picture notice how the pattern on our model’s leggings is rotating inward, indicating that her knees are turned inward. In the second picture, she’s on a folded blanket and her knees are straight across. These subtle shifts will reduce strain on your knees and keep you a practicing yogi all of your life.