Yoga for Absolute Beginners: Virasana

David Procyshyn
Instructor David Procyshyn
Average: 4.7 (61 votes)
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Thunderbolt pose (virasana) can be particularly hard on the knees and ankles, so David shows you how you can sit comfortably using blankets and pillows, while still getting the most from the pose and maintaining the ability to move into other stretches. He also shows you how to make a bolster if you don't have one. This class is a part of a 'Yoga for Beginners' series.

Equipment: Strap, Block, Bolster, Blankets
Style: Gentle Yoga, Hatha Yoga


HiattOConnor 1 year ago

Hey there,

Is there any way to lower the pain I get in my knees and ankles, even when using a blanket for support? I think I'm aligned correctly, but I have notoriously bad ankles from too many football season sprains, and the pain makes me stop. Is it a flexibility thing? A strength thing? Both? Or, do I just need to do it more and the pain will go away?


lisavanos 1 year ago

Hi David,

Thank you for allowing me to be part of the yoga community as a beginner of yoga. I am a in total lockdown in France right now and all the extra time is making the need to relax and unwind more evident.

I have a question regarding my breath and my belly when I do certain asanas. I have always learned that breathing towards the belly is the way to go. However, often when I am in a yoga position and I need to be in an upright position (straight spine, head over heart) I tend to hold in my bellybutton for support and strength and thus I can't breathe all the down into my belly.... Is this okay?

One other question.... Could it be... that I have been listening to a certain Youtube meditational video for years, (the only one that has worked for me ever since a herniated disc changed my life), with the best soothing voice talking about sinking' and 'slowing' in a quiet mind cafe..... That that's your soothing meditational voice?

Thanks again,

David Procyshyn 1 year ago

Hello Lisa.

I'm happy that you're here! These are challenging times so it's great that you can find a way to take care of yourself.

Regarding your breath, the simple answer is that you don't want to belly breathe when you're doing poses. The reason is that, as you said, you need to tighten your belly (engage your core) to protect your lower back. In fact, if you ever learn about the yoga bandhas, this is how they work - they engage to create pressure between the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity, holding the ribs, spine and pelvis still.

And yes, that could very well have been me! I have quite a few videos on youtube. :-)

PianoWire 1 year ago

Wow! That hurt! As I held each of the stretches, slight discomfort built into major discomfort and then into pain. It became too painful to "hang on" to any of them for as long as you asked us to. By the end, even the tops of my feet were screaming for relief. Nothing is "effortless" when my body is screaming at me to stop what I'm doing. I'm no stranger to physical exertion, but I'm not at all flexible, and my pain threshold is low. After two lessons, I'm getting the impression that yoga is all about doing contortions and tolerating the pain that they induce. I don't have much aptitude for either of those, which makes me wonder whether I'm the exception to the rule that yoga is for everybody. Please help!

David Procyshyn 1 year ago

Hi there. Thanks for sharing again. I think you would be surprised at the number of people who experience the exact same thing as you. Really tight joints that SCREAM when you sit in certain ways. The best thing to do is set yourself up so that you are as comfortable as you can possibly be. Sit on a higher cushion (stack folded blankets or blocks or something else that is firm) so you're sitting up nice and high. The roll up two hand towels and tuck them under your ankles. Make them thick enough so your feet don't hurt when you're sitting. If you simply can't make this work, sit for as long as you can to stretch your muscles, then do the majority of the class sitting in a chair. It's totally fine to adapt in any way you need to. Work with what you've got!

PianoWire 1 year ago

Thanks for answering my noobie questions, David. There will be more!

The sitting position was only a minor issue. The tops of my feet did start to ache near the end of the practice, but I was able to get through it. You gave us some breaks, which helped a lot with that.

The big problem was holding the shoulder stretches for as long as you did. Each of them started as an easy stretch that became progressively more painful as I held it. I had to come out of every one of your stretches early because whatever was being stretched would progress from mildly uncomfortable to decidedly painful. That's been the case as long as I can remember: even the most gentle stretch becomes ever more painful as I hold it. The only way I've found to get relief is to come out of the stretch until my nerves stop jangling. Any suggestions?

David Procyshyn 1 year ago

No problem. I'm happy to help.
What you did is exactly what I would suggest - come out of it early when it feels like it's too much. Judge for yourself when that is and feel ok about it, no matter when it happens.

sng4ever 1 year ago

Doing YTT and this was a nice video on thunderbolt pose and some shoulder exercise. David is wonderful at instruction!

EmBe 2 years ago

In January, I completed a 30-day challenge and found it difficult because I was also doing studio Barre Pilates and yoga classes. Due to some changes in my schedule, I decided to switch to DYWM with just an occasional studio class. Although I've taken yoga classes for a number of years, I'm starting at the Absolute Beginner level and have learned so much in these first two classes. I wish I had used DYWM when I first started yoga. Hopefully, the three or four days per week of these yoga programs will also be easier than an every day schedule. I'm looking forward to advancing through the levels of the DYWM programs.