Thunderbolt Pose, Vajrasana, (vahj-rah-suh-nuh)
vajra (firm) + asana (pose)
Also Known As: Diamond Pose
Pose Type: Stretching, Sitting, Stress Relief
Find stillness and connect with your inner power in Thunderbolt Pose
Thunderbolt Pose Fundamentals
Enter a moment of stillness and relief with this seated meditation pose.
Thunderbolt Pose is similar to Hero Pose or Virasana. The main difference is you’re sitting on the heels in Thunderbolt, and the feet are separated and placed outside the hips in Hero Pose. This change may seem minimal, but it makes Thunderbolt much easier, especially if you have any knee issues or discomfort.
The pose has been around for centuries, and we can find the first written record in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a renowned yoga text created in the 15th century. It was later mentioned in other traditional yogic texts, including Gheranda Samhita, and many modern books, such as Iyengar’s Light On Yoga.
Thunderbolt pose involves seating on your knees and is often used as an alternative position to Lotus and Easy Pose for meditation. It may be more suitable for those who struggle to maintain an upright spine in other meditation postures, as it encourages a long and strong spine.
Thunderbolt Pose is called Vajrasana in Sanskrit. Asana means pose, and vajra can be translated into both thunderbolt and firmness. This name symbolizes the sensation of inner power and strength we may experience in our practice, even when doing a simple yoga pose.
On the other hand, the simplicity of the pose is also soothing and calming. It can help you relieve overthinking and anxiety, and find stillness in both your body and mind.
That’s particularly true when you pair Thunderbolt Pose with conscious breathing and hold it for a longer period of time. If sitting on your heels becomes too uncomfortable to hold, you can always simplify the pose by propping yourself on a cushion, block, or meditation bench.
On An Energetic Level
The name vajra also comes from the fact that this pose stimulates vajra nadi, one of the major pathways through which energy flows in our bodies.
This channel is directly connected to our reproductive and urinary systems, and often represents our true power and authentic ambition. That reestablishes the idea that this pose can be used to cultivate the sense of inner confidence and power. Once we are able to control the Vajra Nadi, we are also able to control our sexual energy, which is crucial for awakening to our True Selves.
This nadi also relates to Kundalini Energy, which “sleeps” at the bottom of the spine and is risen through the chakra system, once one learns to control, contain and transmute this energy. For this reason, you will frequently find this pose being a part of Kundalini yoga practice, where it is combined with powerful breathing exercises, mantras, and mudras (hand gestures).
Thunderbolt Pose Benefits
- Stretches and lengthens the ankles, knees, thighs, and feet.
- Strengthens the pelvic muscles, shoulders, and lower back.
- Stronger pelvic muscles and the upright spinal alignment encouraged in this pose may help you work towards a healthier posture.
- Toned pelvic muscles may also help ease menstrual cramps and childbirth.
- May be practiced right after a meal, and increases blood flow to the abdomen. In this manner, it may help boost digestion and relieve constipation. With continued practice, it can also relieve ulcers and acidity.
- Once you master the pose and can hold it comfortably, it becomes a fantastic asana for your meditation and pranayama practice.
- May ease sciatica, and arthritis, and prevent hernia.
How To Do Thunderbolt Pose: Step-By-Step
1. Begin sitting on your mat with your legs extended in front of you, in Staff Pose. Take a moment to work on elongating your spine and deepening your breath.
2. With an inhale, bend your left leg and place the sole of your left foot underneath your left buttock. Repeat the same step for the right leg.
3. Ideally, your toes will touch, and your heels will be slightly separated from each other.
4. Place your palms on your thighs to help you keep the spine erect.
5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, or longer if you are using the pose for your meditation or breathwork practice.
Tips And Tricks
- If you want to deepen the stretch in your shoulders and chest, you can also practice with your arms behind your back. To do so, bring your hands to your back in a Prayer Position. You can also grab opposite elbows.
- Keep your spine long—your entire back, neck, and head should be aligned. Avoid leaning your torso forward. Engage your lower abs to help you keep your spine straight.
- Keep your gaze soft and point it towards the ground in front of you, or close your eyes.
- Balance your weight equally across both hips, and press equally into the ground with both feet.
- Your toes and thighs should touch while you’re holding the pose. Avoid spreading the knees wider than the hips.
- Don’t force the pose – if you feel sharp pain, get out from the pose and practice a modified version instead.
Thunderbolt Pose Variations
Thunderbolt Pose Variation: Sleeping Thunderbolt Pose
Sleeping Thunderbolt pose adds a backbend to this asana, and you should only try it if you can already comfortably sit on your heels. Also, make sure to perform some more gentle backbends prior to attempting it to warm up your body.
To perform the pose, first sit in Vajrasana. When you’re ready, start moving your torso backward. When you’re close enough to the floor, place your forearms on the ground. The palms should be on the floor and point forward.
Keep your back arched and away from the ground, and touch the floor with your head. You can either place your entire head on the floor or only the crown – your choice will depend on your flexibility and what feels better for you.
Thunderbolt Pose Variation: Thunderbolt with A Wrist Stretch
This variation is ideal for anyone who works a lot with their hands or to counteract all the pushing asanas in yoga, which can be taxing for the wrists.
Begin in Vajrasana pose. Place your palms on the floor in front of you, but reverse them, so that the top of the palms are on the floor and the fingers are pointing towards your knees.
Lean forward only slightly to feel a stretching sensation in the wrists. Don’t lean so much that your hips lift off your heels.
Thunderbolt Pose Variation: Thunderbolt with a Cushion
Perform this variation if it’s difficult to sit on your heels or if you’re planning to hold Thunderbolt Pose for longer. This variation will help if the pose causes ankle or knee pain.
To perform this variation, place a firm pillow, a rolled towel, or a blanket between your hips and your heels. This will raise the buttocks off the heels and reduce any discomfort you feel when holding the pose. It will also make sure your spine is upright, elongating your lower back.
Additionally, you can place a small cushion or a folded blanket beneath your ankle joints or your shins. This modification will be very helpful if you feel cramps in your feet.
Precautions And Contraindications
Back Rounding. The key element of Thunderbolt pose is posture. Although slouching the back may feel more comfortable when we’re holding the pose for longer, it will cause back and neck pain in the long run. Make sure to prioritize an upright position throughout your entire spine, even if that means you need to use props to aid you.
Head hanging down. Keep your gaze slightly in front of your body instead of directly down to make sure your head is straight. This small tweak will prevent strain in the neck and help you to hold the pose comfortably for longer.
Being tense. This pose does require some activation in your shoulders, core, and back, but avoid being too stiff. Allow your body to relax in the pose, by releasing tension in the legs and dropping the shoulders down and back. Use your breath to help you relax more.
Avoid the pose if you have an injury in the ankles, calves, knees, or hamstrings. Also, avoid if you suffer from intestinal ulcers or hernia, or at least consult a physician before you attempt it. Finally, refrain from practicing if you have arthritis in the knees.
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