How to Do Heron Pose (Krounchasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Heron Pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Hamstrings

Level: Intermediate

There's a lot going on in Heron Pose (Krounchasana), which helps open all the major muscle groups in your legs. Don't be daunted because there are also a lot of ways to modify the full position so that it's more accessible. The main stretch here is in the hamstrings, so warming them up first is a good idea. You can use this pose as part of a core and abs sequence or one with a focus on the hamstrings or opening the hips.

Benefits

This pose stretches the hamstring and calf on the extended leg and the quadriceps on the bent leg. You can get tight leg muscles from participating in a variety of physical activities, including running, cycling, soccer, and basketball. Keeping flexible can help you with sports performance and ease of motion in daily life.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin seated in Staff Pose (Dandasana) with both legs extended in front of you and the spine nice and straight. If you usually sit up on a blanket in staff pose to help elongate the spine, you can use a blanket for the same purpose throughout this pose.
  2. Fold your left leg back into a Half Hero Pose (Ardha Virasana) position. Your left foot should be outside your left hip, not under it. Take care to keep the left foot pointing straight back and the left knee hugging toward the midline. If Virasana is painful for your knees or doesn't work for you for some other reason, just keep your left leg forward instead, bending the left knee in a one-legged Sukasana.
  3. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot to the floor close to your right sit bone.
  4. Hold your right foot with both your hands and lift it off the floor.
  5. Lean your torso back slightly and anchor your shoulder blades onto your back and your arms into their shoulder sockets.
  6. Slowly straighten your right leg as much as you can. Keep your spine long and your shoulders down. Don't hunch forward in an attempt straighten your leg more. Your extended leg and your torso should make a narrow V shape.
  7. Hold for about five breaths and then release and set up for the other side.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this pose and avoid strain or injury.

Rounding Back

The most common mistake is to let the spine curve forward. It's important to keep the spine nice and straight.

Hunching Shoulders

Your shoulders should be kept back so your chest is open for good breathing, as well as to help prevent rounding the back. Adjust where you grasp the upraised leg to prevent this.

Modifications and Variations

As with most yoga poses, there are ways to make this pose more accessible for beginners and to deepen it as your practice progresses.

Need a Modification?

If your leg does not easily straighten there are several options. You can keep your knee slightly bent. One option that opens your hamstring more is to let go of your foot and instead hold your ankle or calf if that gives you the mobility to straighten your leg. The other way is to use a strap. Place the strap around the ball of your right foot. Hold one side of the strap with each hand. This has the added benefit of allowing your shoulders to move back and down.

If you find that you can straighten your leg only if you round your spine forward, you've lost the integrity of the pose. Use one of the solutions described above so that you can maintain optimal spinal alignment.

If you have a knee or ankle problem that prevents using Half Hero Pose, instead fold your leg into the position used in Head-to-Knee Forward Bend, with the heel at your groin and knee flat on the ground.

Up for a Challenge?

For a deeper pose, draw your leg and torso together. If you lean forward, be sure this is done from the hip and not by rounding your back.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this pose if you have any knee or ankle injuries or conditions that make it painful or hard to achieve the Half Hero Pose. Discuss modifications needed with your yoga instructor. Stop this pose if you feel any pain.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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