Difference Between Vajrasana and Virasana

July 7, 2022

It’s not surprising that Virasana and Vajrasana can sometimes cause confusion. The Sanskrit names have only a couple of letters difference between their spellings, and both are upright kneeling poses. Fortunately, the difference is clear once you know what to look for.

The Difference Between Virasana and Vajrasana

In their upright kneeling form, these poses look similar - but the leg position is different. To put it very simply, in Virasana you kneel sitting BETWEEN your feet, while in Vajrasana you kneel sitting ON your feet.

Both poses require ankle and foot flexibility, but the small difference in leg position makes a big difference to the range of movement required at the hips and knees.

  • Sitting between your feet in Virasana requires a lot of internal rotation at the hip, as well as rotation and extreme flexion at the knee.
  • Vajrasana requires full flexion at the knee, but allows the hip to rest in a mid-range flexed position.

These differences mean there are also differences in how you can safely enter the poses, what benefits they offer, and also what modifications might be helpful for your practice.

What’s in a name - Virasana and Vajrasana

Virasana/Hero

The ‘vira’ in Virasana comes from a Sanskrit word meaning champion, hero or warrior. Virasana is therefore also known as Hero Pose. The same Sanskrit origin appears in Virabhadrasana, which you may recognize as Warrior Pose.

Vajrasana/Diamond

In Vajrasana, the Sanskrit ‘vajra’ was a weapon with the meaning diamond or thunderbolt. Vajrasana therefore is often called Diamond Pose or Thunderbolt Pose.

Benefits of Virasana or Vajrasana

Virasana/Hero
  • Stretches into knee flexion, foot plantar flexion and hip rotation without putting hamstrings on stretch.
  • Virasana allows an upright spine with no stretch on the hamstrings. For those who find it difficult to sit upright in cross-legged poses or Staff Pose, a kneeling pose can be a useful option.
  • The principle benefit of Virasana is that it encourages increased range of motion at the hip, knee and ankle, which in turn can improve joint health. Muscles placed on stretch include quadricep muscles at the thigh, and the tibialis anterior at the ankle. The connective tissues and joint capsules may also be stretched.
  • Many find Virasana to be a rejuvenating pose for tired legs
Vajrasana/Diamond
  • Stretches in knee flexion and foot plantar flexion without putting hamstrings on stretch.
  • Vajrasana can be a more accessible pose than Virasana, because hip rotation is not required
  • The similarities between Hero and Diamond Poses mean they also share some benefits. In Vajrasana, there is no stretch on the hamstrings, so it’s possible to sit with a straight back even if you have tighter hamstrings.
  • The pose stretches the knee joints into flexion, and the ankles and feet into plantar flexion. This creates stretch on the soft tissues around the joints, and in the quadriceps (thigh) and tibialis anterior (shin) muscles.

How to Use Virasana or Vajrasana

Both Hero and Diamond can be incorporated into a sequence of asanas, or a class.

If comfortable and not causing any strain on joints, both poses are suitable to hold for a few breaths, or for longer periods. They can be used for meditation, or as a resting pose

Step-by-step guides to Virasana and Vajrasana

Virasana/Hero
How to practice Virasana (Hero Pose)

1. Start in a tall kneeling position with hips straight. Knees are together.

2. Move your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips, keeping the tops of your feet flat on the floor. 

3. Carefully sit down between your feet. If your buttocks reach the floor with no strain felt in the joints, sit tall with your weight resting through your sit bones on the floor. 

4. If your sit bones don’t reach the floor, or the position causes strain in joints or muscles, use modifications to make the pose safe and useful.

Vajrasana/Diamond
How to practice Vajrasana (Diamond Pose)

1. Start in a tall kneeling position with hips straight. Knees are together.

2. Point your toes and press the tops of your toes firmly on the floor.

3. Breathe out as you lower yourself into a sitting position with your buttocks resting on your heels. 

4. Let your hands rest on your thighs, palms facing downward. Relax your shoulders and arms, and close your eyes.

Helpful Tips for Virasana and Vajrasana

For both poses, a gentle stretch is acceptable but pain or uncomfortable strain should be avoided by using modifications.

Injuries and unstable or sensitive joints should be treated with care - use modifications until your joints are able to tolerate a deeper position.

Listen to your body and accept the feedback it gives you. 

Virasana/Hero
  • The most common modification for Hero Pose is to place a cushion between the feet, under the sit bones. This reduces the knee flexion and internal hip rotation required.
  • Discomfort at the ankles or feet can be eased by placing a small, folded towel under each shin. This changes the leg position a little, so for your comfort try adding a towel under the sit bones at the same time. 
  • Just can’t sit in Hero? Some people are restricted by soft tissues tightness, which can be stretched over time. Others are restricted by the shape of their hip bones - hip joints vary between people. No amount of stretching will change the shape of your femur, or the socket it fits into.
Vajrasana/Diamond
  • If the position places strain on one or both the knees, place a cushion on top of your heels before sitting on them. Cushion both sides equally, even if only one knee is restricted.
  • If you feel strain in the ankles or feet, place a small folded towel under both shins.
  • Keep your back long and erect - your ears should be in an upright line with your shoulders, hips and heels.

Conclusion

Virasana and Vajrasana are just two of the many seated poses in yoga. Seated poses can be useful for practicing mudras, mantras and meditations. The anatomy of your bones and flexibility of other tissues may dictate how much you need to modify any pose, particularly Virasana. Always modify to suit your body - this is a vital part of practicing yoga.

About the author

Kalyani Hauswirth Jain

Kalyani Hauswirth-Jain is creative director & senior teacher at the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams since 2013. She teaches during the Arhanta 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training as well as a variety of 50-hour courses such as the Vinyasa Yoga teacher training.

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