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Vajrasana in Yoga: Steps, Benefits, and Modifications

A classic yoga kneeling posture to incorporate into your practice.

VINEET KAUL | Last Updated on August 7, 2022

  • How to do the Thunderbolt Pose with proper form.

  • Tips from yoga instructors to get in and out safely.

  • Vajrasana benefits and modifications using props.

  • Also, read the step-by-step instructions to Virasana.

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Thunderbolt Pose or Vajrasana is a yoga kneeling posture used in asana routines, pranayama, and meditation. It targets the spine and legs, particularly the quads, knees, and ankles. But this classical yoga pose is known to have many other psycho-physiological benefits [1].

“Simply put, Vajrasana means to sit with the buttocks resting on the feet – the traditional and modern kneeling position,” explains Jenna Dowell, a yoga instructor, and physical therapist. “It's one of the oldest yoga poses to learn but there are other alternatives that may work for you," she adds.

She’s spot on. Vajrasana can be tricky to hold and hard on the knees for some people [2]. The problem usually stems from bad lifestyle habits like sitting in chairs all day, which leads to lower-body stiffness, weak ankles/knees, and a general lack of flexibility.

On the upside, Vajrasana is one of the few yoga poses you can do right after eating. Kneeling after meals is a common practice in India. That’s because the it's benefits include improving digestion and nutrient absorption.

Read on to avail the benefits of this classic asana from the comfort of your home.

Vajrasana: Meaning and Origins

Vajrasana is a combination of two Sanskrit words – Vajra meaning ‘thunderbolt’ and asana meaning ‘posture.’ Thereby, the Sanskrit work Vajrasana means ‘thunderbolt pose.’ [3] It has several variations, the most famous being Supta or Laughu Vajrasana, the reclining Thunderbolt Pose.

 

But there are varying descriptions of Vajrasana in different yoga texts.

 

In older texts like Gheranda Samhita [4], Vajrasana resembles what we call Hero Pose today. In Yoga Mimamsa, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and Yoga Kundalini Upanishad, Vajrasana is another name for Siddhasana. The latter describes it as “sitting with the heels under the penis.”

Recent texts like Light on Yoga define Vajrasana as any kneeling position with the knees and feet together. In modern yoga, all these yoga poses are clubbed under the ‘Vajrasana family.’ Below, we discuss the commonly used version as of today.

 
Vajrasana steps illustrated and annotated

Thunderbolt Pose Basics

  • Difficulty Level: Beginner

  • Sanskrit Name: Vajrasana (वज्रासन)

  • Pronounced: wujdge-Raa-sun

  • Targets: Quads, knees, ankles

  • Chakra: Root or Muladhara Chakra

  • Used for: Asana, Pranayama, Meditation

  • Props: Bolster, Blanket, Block, Kneeling bench

  • Alternatives: Virasana, Suhkasana

Vajrasana and Padmasana are the ideal sitting postures for pranayama and meditation, with many physical and mental benefits [5]. Moreover, it's easy to keep a neutral spine, making it an excellent alternative if can't sit cross-legged.  

“Another great bit about Vajrasana is you can use it as the base pose of a yoga flow,” explains Jenna. “Using Thunderbolt Pose, you can get into Camel Pose (Ustrasana), Reclining Thunderbolt (Supta vajrasana), or Child Pose (Balasana).”

“In asana routines, you simply sit in Vajrasana,” Jenna continues. “The upper body isn’t doing much. You can amplify its benefits with head rolls, wrist rotations, or yoga hand gestures. For a challenge, try it with Gomukhasana or Garuda arms.”

Lastly, do a few warm-up lunges, start slow, and don’t shy away from props, which provide valuable support for new yogis. After all, it doesn’t matter how long you can do it, you won't get any Vajrasana benefits if you aren't doing it right.

 

Explore other yoga poses like Sukhasana or Siddhasana if you are, for whatever reasons, unable to kneel down. Consult your doctor before you do it if you are recovering from injury or have chronic hip/knee pain.

Vajrasana Benefits

  1. Vajrasana calms the mind and improves concentration [6].

  2. It improves posture and increases blood circulation in the lower abdomen.

  3. Vajrasana strengthens the legs, particularly the thighs and quads.

  4. It is known to relieve knee and back pain.

  5. Vajrasana benefits digestion and provides relief for constipation and flatulence.

  6. It strengthens the reproductive system and reduces menstrual cramps.

 
 
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How to do Vajrasana in 5 Steps

  1. Roll out your yoga mat and get into a high kneeling position. Keep the knees close – four fingers apart – and keep the ankles together. The feet are facing away, the soles are facing up, and the big toes touch, pointing slightly inward.

  2. Lower yourself to sit on your legs slowly. Your thighs rest on the calves and buttocks on the heels. Adjust the hips and pelvis to distribute weight evenly on your sit bones.

  3. Rest your hands on the thighs or knee, palms down for grounding or up for receiving. Alternately, you can use them to practice yoga hand gestures like Adi Mudra or Udana Vayu Mudra.

  4. Keep the spine neutral by keeping the shoulders over the hips. You can achieve this by pressing the hips into the floor and lifting the crown of your head.

  5. Drop the shoulders and gaze forward. Lift your breastbone to open the chest slightly. That's how we do Vajrasana with the correct form.

Getting out of Vajrasana

To get out of this pose, lift your glutes and thighs and get into a high kneeling position. Lean forward and place your palms on the floor to get on all fours, as you would in Cat-Cow Pose. Extend each leg (backward) to get a good stretch. Rest in Staff Pose or Corpse Pose if needed.

 
 

Vajrasana Modifications with Yoga Props

The Vajrasana benefits may motivate you to incorporate it into your routine. But some yogis may realize it’s not easy to sit back on your heels for long periods. Here are some ways to do it with yoga props to avoid injury and/or ease discomfort:

With a Towel or Blanket

Many yogis place a folded blanket under the knees and ankles in Vajrasana. It relieves pressure if you plan to stay in the pose for a few minutes or more. You can also place a folded towel between the knees or sit on stacked blankets, but you  need at least two blankets to elevate the hips sufficiently.

With a Bolster Pillow

Place a yoga bolster lengthwise on your mat. Get into a high kneeling position with the bolster under you between your feet (shins) and ankles. Sit on the short edge of the bolster by lowering your sit bones onto it. Adjust the prop as per your needs.

Ensure two things - a) maintain a neutral spine; do not lean forward, and b) don't rest your thighs on the bolster. A pranayama bolster's unique shape works well in this use case. However, any cylindrical or rectangular bolster should suffice.

With a Yoga Block

As in the previous section, you can practice Vajrasana with a yoga block to raise the hips and reduce strain on the knees and feet. You'd use it the same way as a bolster, except you place it horizontally. Blocks support some of your weight but are not as comfy as a bolster pillow.

Foam blocks, being squishier, are the most comfortable to sit on. Wood or cork blocks have hard, rigid surfaces, making them less desirable for seated yoga poses. However, you can layer them with a towel or blanket. 

With a Seiza Bench

All kneeling yoga poses can be done using wooden seiza benches, also called kneeling chairs or wooden meditation benches. They are folding chairs or wooden benches designed for prayer or meditation. These low benches are 5 to 8 inches high with a flat or curved seat and removable cushion.

A Seiza bench is a fantastic aid for the inflexible, beginners, and the elderly. You can also use it if you are recovering from leg/knee injuries or surgery, after consulting your doctor, of course. 

Safety and Precautions

Vajrasana is contraindicated in hernia, knee problems (chronic pain, surgery, and injury), stomach or intestinal ulcers, and any spinal cord conditions. Some yoga practitioners say it is okay to do Vajrasana during pregnancy.

Others yoga experts say Vajrasana should be avoided in the last trimester of pregnancy as it can strain the abdomen. In such cases, it’s best to speak to your doctor and seek personalized modifications of yoga poses from an expert.

 
 

FAQ – Related Questions

How long should you stay in Vajrasana?

You can stay in Vajrasana for 1 to 3 minutes in a yoga routine. Beginners should start with a minute and progress gradually. For pranayama and meditation, you can stay in yoga poses as long as comfortable, preferably with the aid of props.

What is the best time to do Vajrasana?

Vajrasana can be done any time during the day since it is one of the few yoga poses you can do after meals. Ideally, it should be done early in the morning as a part of your yoga, pranayama, or meditation routine. Once you build your skill level, you can do Vajrasana for five minutes, 3 to 5 times a day.

Is Vajrasana the same as Diamond Pose?

Vajrasana, Thunderbolt Pose, and Diamond Pose refer to the same yoga kneeling posture. Vajrasana is the Sanskrit name, and Thunderbolt Pose and Diamond Pose are the English names. However, Thunderbolt Pose is used more often than Diamond Pose.

Does Vajrasana help in weight loss or reducing thigh fat?

Vajrasana is not an exercise to lose weight or reduce fat in the thighs and belly. Resources that make this claim might refer to indirect benefits, most of which are unsupported by research studies. However, Vajrasana helps with digestion, relieves constipation, and improves circulation in the lower abdomen, which can be helpful in a holistic weight loss plan.

In Conclusion

We hope this guide to Vajrasana and its benefits provides instructions, motivation, and answers to the commonly asked questions. Check out our Instagram (@pranasutra.yoga) and share this free resource with your friends and family.

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Sources:

1. Ratan Sharma et al, Effect of yoga-based lifestyle intervention on subjective well-being. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

2. Dean Nelson, Yoga bad for your knees, Indian doctor warns. The Telegraph.

3. Translation Source: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

4. Sirsa Chandra Base, The Gheranda Samhita, Hindu Online

5. ABC - Kanwaljeet Singh et al, Effects of selected meditative asanas on kinaesthetic perception and speed of movement, Biomedical Human Kinetics.

6. Ansu K. Jose, et al, A Study to Assess the Effectiveness of Vajrasana on Physical and Mental Health among Adolescents at Selected PU Colleges in Mysore, International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management.