Deb, who is almost as stiff as I am, asked how to get into Supta Virasana (reclining hero).
Before I get into the pose I warm up with a few other poses.
Virasana (hero) – Kneel down with knees together and feet just far enough apart for you to sit between. Your heels should be snugged in to your hips. If your sitting bones are not on the floor in this pose, put a block or folded blanket under you. Make your seat as high as necessary to be comfortable. If you’re just hanging there in space you’ll damage your knees. If your knees bother you, roll up a couple of washcloths and shove them behind your knees as you sit down. That gives you a little extra space. You can also roll up a blanket or sticky mat to put behind your knees for more stretch.
This is also a good pose to sit in while doing arm stretches, and it’s a good TV yoga pose.
Lunge – You can do this with your toes bent and your back leg straight, as you see in the thumbnail, or you can do it with your knee on the floor (or blanket) and your toes extending behind you. You can feel this working on your psoas.
Those two are the ones I always do, but there are lots of others. Anything that opens up the front of the hip is good, and anything that stretches the shins and tops of the feet. One way to do that is to roll up a blanket halfway, and put it crosswise under your ankles in Virasana. Sit that way for a bit. Then move the blanket closer to your toes and sit that way for a bit. Keep moving it down until it’s under your toes. Ow, but it stretches parts of your body that rarely get a stretch.
Now for Supta Virasana. I don’t do the version shown here. I make two modifications (more if you count variations on propping).
First of all, I only put one leg back beside me. The other one remains in front of me with the knee bent, foot on the floor. This is much nicer to the low back.
Second, I use whatever props my body needs that day. Usually that means a bolster or a pile of blankets folded into a rectangle more or less a foot wide and three feet long. If I’m using a bolster, I put a folded blanket lengthwise on it and then another one crosswise for my head. When you get back in the pose, you don’t want your chin pointing up in the air. Your forehead and chin should be level or pointing toward your chest. So you may need to adjust the crosswise blanket when you get there.
I keep some other props nearby. Sometimes I sit on a block if my knees are especially stiff. More often I stuff a folded blanket under my seat – it’s easier to remove as I relax into the pose. Sometimes I put a sandbag on my hip.
To get into the pose, I test first to see how close I am to the props. I don’t want them poking into my low back. I kneel in Virasana (both legs) and put my hand between my back and the bolster. A fist width is good for me.
Then I raise up into kneeling and swing one leg forward with my foot on the floor. Then I put my arms behind me on the floor, keeping my chest high, shoulders down and back, and head up, and walk myself back onto the bolster, adjusting as needed. My down knee is usually several inches from the floor and my quads are yelling “Are you nuts? We can’t do this!” They settle down after a while, and my knee sinks to the floor. Then I can relax. I stay there for five or ten minutes before switching legs.
To get up, keep your head back and lead with your chest, pushing up with your arms.
More than you wanted to know, I bet.