How to Do Thunderbolt Pose in Yoga
Thunderbolt Pose is a traditional and ancient seated yoga pose that is often used for meditation and yogic breathing exercises. It is similar to the seated pose called "Hero Pose" ("Virasana" in Sanskrit), but there is one major difference: In Hero Pose, the feet are separated and the buttocks are on the floor, but in Thunderbolt Pose, the heels are together with the buttocks resting on top of them.
Its Sanskrit name, "Vajrasana" (vahj-RAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words: "Vajra" and "Asana." The word "asana" translates as "pose." The word "vajra" has many meanings, including "thunderbolt," "firmness," "adamant," and "diamond-like." Thus, this pose may be referred to as "Diamond Pose" or "Adamant Pose,” but it is also sometimes referred to simply as "Kneeling Pose."
Benefits of Thunderbolt Pose
Yoga is the alchemy of our minds into purity.
This pose stretches the thighs, ankles, knees, and feet. It also improves posture and tones the pelvic muscles. Additionally, it aids digestion, and can relieve indigestion and gas.
Regular practice of this pose calms and stabilizes the mind, making it a great posture for long periods of seated meditation and breath work (pranayama). Sitting in Thunderbolt Pose will help you concentrate with a calm awareness. This state of being fully present is the heart of yoga.
Do not practice Thunderbolt Pose if you have a current or recent knee or ankle injury. If you have any knee or ankle concerns (outside of direct pain), only perform this pose under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin kneeling on the floor with your hips and buttocks lifted off of your legs. Place a folded blanket beneath your knees, shins, and feet if you need the extra padding to feel more comfortable. Your inner knees should be together, and your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Un-tuck your toes and press the tops of your feet firmly and evenly along the floor.
- With an exhalation, come to a sitting position on your heels. Rest your buttocks on the soles of your feet.
- Keep your feet directly in line with your shins. Do not let your feet splay open or turn inward. Your feet and thighs should be touching throughout the pose.
- Sit up straight and draw your should blades firmly against your back ribs. Widen across your collarbones and drop your shoulders away from your ears. Sit up tall and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Balance your head and spine over your pelvis.
- Lay your hands on your thighs, palms down. Let your arms relax. Gaze forward with soft eyes.
- Hold the pose for up to one minute, or for the duration of your meditation or pranayama practice.
- To release the pose, press your palms firmly on the floor and lift your buttocks. Cross your ankles and shins beneath your body, and then extend your legs straight out in front of you in Seated Staff Pose (Dandasana).
Modifications & Variations
Practicing Thunderbolt Pose will increase flexibility in your ankles, feet, and knees, while also improving posture. Remember to take the pose slowly, use props if needed, and make whatever modifications you need to avoid injuring your joints. Try these simple changes to find a variation of the pose that works best for you:
- If it is difficult for you to sit all the way down on your heels, place a firm pillow or folded blanket between your buttocks and heels. Sitting with your hips raised will reduce stress and discomfort in your knees, hips, and back. It will also bring your spine into correct alignment, which will help you avoid injury and stay in the position for much longer periods.
- If your feet cramp or if the pose is difficult on your ankles, place a blanket or rolled towel beneath each ankle before coming fully into the pose.
- If you are practicing a mudra as part of your meditation, you can bring your hands into the correct position instead of resting them on your thighs.
- To stretch the soles of the feet, tuck your toes. Press evenly through each toe as you rest your weight on your heels.
- To stretch your arms and torso in the pose, reach your arms forward until they are parallel to the floor. Turn your palms face down and hook your thumbs. With an inhalation, extend your arms over your head until they are in line with your body with your palms facing forward. Soften your shoulders. Exhale to lower your arms and release. Change the hook of your thumbs and repeat.
Sitting in Thunderbolt Pose in correct alignment can help you feel connected to the ancient and traditional practice of the yogis of India. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your spine, neck, and head aligned throughout the pose. Do not lean your torso forward, puff your lower ribs, or stick your chin out. Your ears should remain in line with your shoulders, hips, and heels, balanced evenly over your pelvis.
- Keep your gaze and eyes soft.
- Keep your weight balanced equally across both sit bones.
- Make sure the tops of your feet are pressing equally into the floor — do not let the inner or outer tops of your feet hold more weight.
- Keep your thighs together and your feet touching throughout the pose.
- If you feel any pinching or jarring pain (particularly in the knees), immediately back out of the pose.
- Never force the pose! It can take weeks, months, and even years to be able to sit on your heels. Go slowly and use props and modifications to avoid injury. Over time, you will gain flexibility and all of the other benefits of the pose.
Sit Firm & Find Stillness
Practicing Thunderbolt Pose regularly can bring a great amount of peace and stillness to your yoga practice. It might take a while to gain the mobility needed to sit comfortably for a long period, but remember that yoga isn't a competition — there's no prize for getting into the pose quickly! Take your time, and stay aware of your current abilities. Gradually, flexibility and serenity will increase in all areas of your life.