Yoga for Absolute Beginners: Virasana

Beginner I
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.
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Comments

Existing Comments

HiattOConnor
June 4, 2020
Comment:

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?

Thanks!

lisavanos
April 17, 2020
Comment:

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,
Lisa

David Procyshyn
April 17, 2020
Comment:

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
April 8, 2020
Comment:

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
April 9, 2020
Comment:

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
April 9, 2020
Comment:

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
April 9, 2020
Comment:

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
October 18, 2019
Comment:

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

EmBe
April 18, 2019
Comment:

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.

MissAlyssa
August 10, 2018
Comment:

Hi David,
I attended a yoga studio for just shy of a year, but have since moved out to the country where there isn't a studio for miles! I haven't practiced yoga for about six months and wanted to do the beginner series to really focus on the fundamentals and make sure that I didn't have any bad habits, since it wasn't really feasible for my previous instructor to focus specifically on MY form all the time with a room full of experienced yogis to teach.
I experienced a non-unsubstantial amount of pain in my knees and inner ankles during this video. I have dynamic arches in my feet, meaning that if the arches don't have to work, they drop down low (similar to a lazy eye, but for arches). Because my legs developed this way, my kneecaps and second toes do not line up. My kneecaps literally point inwards when my feet are parallel, and I therefore need to point my feet outward for my knees to bend straight. I have shoes and exercises to work on correcting/managing this, but because of this misalignment, I found aligning my calves with my heels and middle toes nearly impossible and fairly painful, no matter how many blankets and pillows I used. It took me about 10 minutes after this video to be able to straighten my knees without pain (and without physically moving them with my hands). The inner ankle pain feels like it may be due to a very intense stretch. Are either of these pains normal? Should I be modifying this somehow? It may be worth noting that the tops of my feet were flat on the ground, whereas yours only partially touched the ground.
Any guidance you could offer would be greatly appreciated :)

David Procyshyn
August 14, 2018
Comment:

Hello MissAlyssa!
Thanks for the description. The best way to adapt your body to this pose is to provide more support under your bum and ankles, wherever needed. Don't worry about aligning everything perfectly, just work with what you have and make adjustments so that you are not experiencing any pain or intense discomfort. If your body says 'no', don't do it.

If you are unable to get into virasana (kneeling) comfortably, then either sit in a chair or sit cross-legged, if you can do that comfortably.

dchamorro99
June 14, 2018
Comment:

Hi David, thank you for these classes, its my first time with yoga and I've been really enjoying it. When I tried this, after I put both my hands in my back, my lower back started to bend forward, is this normal? I kept pushing it back to make my spine more straight but it hurt when I did. I also couldn't connect my hands when my right one was up, is this a problem? I have bad posture and a low degree of kyphosis, should I keep trying?

Thanks!

David Procyshyn
June 15, 2018
Comment:

Hi there. Yes, you can absolutely keep trying, with the understanding that it's best to find out for yourself what you can do to make your posture and alignment feel good. It's difficult for me to give specific advice without seeing you in person, but what I can say is that you can attempt to adapt the poses to your body using the props. For example, if you find it hard to reach your arms back or up without arching your back, use the strap in a way that allows you to reach back a bit less and maintain the length in your lower back.
Let me know if you have any more questions.
Take care.

Irenchi
May 2, 2018
Comment:

Hi David,
I have been wanting to start with yoga since..ages...I had no time to go to any studio (cause of my work style - long hours and frequent travels) and all the tutorials I have found before were not offering what I was hoping for - explanations on how and why...even for very basics...They more looked like mass fitness sessions (the ones where you have to many attendees so teacher cannot focus on you ate all) rather than what yoga should be (or how I kind of pictured in my head)...I realized that I am spending more time and effort to keep up with the pace and figure out what to do, instead of doing the right thing. So I would quit, almost immediately
That's why I want to THANK YOU sooooo much for making me wanting to continue!!!

creek
December 13, 2017
Comment:

I feel so defeated. My knees are arthritic and I cannot bend them anywhere close to the video. Is this pose absolutely essential in order to continue to practice yoga? For now I will stick to the chair poses and hope that will also strengthen my legs and hips.

David Procyshyn
December 16, 2017
Comment:

No, sitting on the heels is not so common that it will become a problem if you can’t do it. Most of the time, you’ll be seated on your bum with your legs crossed, and even if the teacher is sitting on their heels, you can sit cross legged if you need to.

Have you done the beginner class on sukhasana? You’ll be fine if you were able to sit relatively comfortably in sukhasana (cross-legged).

Lizzie888
December 4, 2017
Comment:

In doing these beginner's classes I have come to realise just how bad my posture has become. I am starting to use muscles that have become lazy after years of incorrect alignment. Thank you David I will return to these fundamentals often to ensure I am not cutting corners.

sarahreneewolfe
September 20, 2017
Comment:

You know, I've been practicing yoga on and off for maybe around twenty years. I've never learned the specifics of these basic concepts and poses. I did the first class in this series yesterday. I've been doing most of these very basic poses incorrectly all these years, which explains so much to me about why my body struggles with many poses. I think just about every person who has ever done yoga should watch these classes, no matter how much of an expert they may be. It's always good to go back and refresh the basics anyway. Thank you so much for these videos! I'm so grateful!

tobyglynn
July 11, 2017
Comment:

a great place to start (along with episode 1) before you move into more complicated stuff like sun salutations

Trudywalker5@gmail.com
May 22, 2017
Comment:

This is a good start for all the people who have not done yoga or just want a nice stretch after a long day at work.
Thank you for the all inclusive videos that you share with the world daily dywm!
Peace
tw