Want to learn more about Vajrasana, aka Thunderbolt Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Vajrasana, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, modifications and more.
I love practicing Vajrasana after a long day of walking or hiking. It really helps stretch out the fronts of my shins, and it relieves some of the tension that can accumulate there. This is especially true if I have been hiking up a hill or mountain, which accentuates dorsiflexion of the ankles and can makes these muscles extra tight.
If you ever end the day with sore or achey feet, knees, shins and calf muscles, sitting in Vajrasana for a few minutes each evening can really help.
The mythology behind the name of this pose tells us that Lord Indra used a thunderbolt as his weapon to to kill sinners and ignorant persons. Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism use a device called a vajra as part of their meditation rituals.
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Vajrasana Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Vajrasana (aka Vadrasana)|
|Meaning||Vajra means thunderbolt.|
A thunderbolt is the weapon of the Hindu god Indra.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Vajrasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Vajrasana include:
- Stretches the top of the feet.
- Stretches the shin muscles.
- Helps to strengthen the arches of the feet.
- Stretches the quads/thighs.
This is an excellent pose to do after long walks, runs, or any activity that works your ankles and legs.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
- If you have had meniscus surgery this pose may be uncomfortable and you may wish to skip it.
- If you have had ACL or MCL injury or surgery (or other knee injury/surgery) this pose may not be comfortable. See Modifications below for suggestions of how you can modify.
- This pose can be challenging or even very painful if you have tight shin muscles – something you may not realize you have until trying this pose. There is a modification below to help make the pose more accessible.
- Hamstring or calf injuries can be exacerbated by this pose. It is recommended you wait until you are fully healed before attempting this pose.
- Knee arthritis will make this pose difficult, or impossible.
- Haemorrhoids, hernias, or stomach ulcers can be exacerbated by this pose. It is recommended you speak to a medial professional about practicing this pose if you are dealing with these challenges.
- Lower back injuries can make this pose painful.
Yoga Pose Breakdown
How to do Vajrasana or Thunderbolt Pose
- Kneel on your mat.
- Place the tops of your feet flat on the mat.
- Bring your knees almost together.
- Bring your feet together.
- Sit on your heels.
- Tone your belly to help prevent overarching your lower back.
- Sit up tall.
- Place your hands on your thighs, palms up or palms down.
- Look forward and steady your breath.
- This is Vajrasana, or Thunderbolt Pose.
- Exit as you entered and stretch your legs out in front of you.
- Dandasana is a good counterpose to Vajrasana.
Modifications & Variations
If you have tight shin muscles
If you have tight shin muscles, placing the tops of your feet on the floor and sitting on your heels may not be possible, or might be very painful. To modify the pose, roll up a blanket and place it between your ankle joint and the floor before sitting on your heels. You can make the blanket roll as thick, or small, as you need.
If your ankles hurt
If the front of your ankles hurt place a rolled up blanket under your ankles. This will allow you, over time to stretch the front of your ankles so the pose becomes more accessible.
To cushion your knees
This pose can be uncomfortable on your knees. You can double up your yoga mat for more cushioning, or place a blanket under your knees.
If your knee joint hurts
If the pose hurts your knee joint, move your knees apart slightly and it should lessen the discomfort. You can place a yoga block between your knees to keep them separated.
If you have knee injuries or have had surgery
If you have had meniscus or knee ligament injuries or surgeries this pose may not be possible for you. One modification you can try is to place a blanket roll between your calf muscles and hamstrings before sitting down. With the blanket there, you will likely not be able to sit on your heels. It is ok to keep your buttocks off your heels, or you can place another blanket or a yoga block between your heels and sit on that.
If you find the blanket roll between your legs doesn’t solve the discomfort, try a yoga block placed between your feet horizontally.
If your legs don’t come together
It’s not the end of the world if your legs don’t come right together in Vajrasana. But if it is difficult to keep your legs close together in this pose, you can try using a yoga strap around your thighs and shins to hold them in place.
Preparatory Poses for Vajrasana
- Elevated Vajrasana / Toe-crusher Pose
- Sukhasana / Comfortable Pose
- Bharmanasana / All 4s
- Siddhasana / Accomplished Pose
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Baddha Konasana / Bound Angle Pose or Cobbler’s Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Facing Dog Pose
- Dandasana / Staff Pose
- Phalakasana / Plank Pose
- Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
Poses to Take Your Practice Further
- Hanumanasana / Full Splits
- Lolasana / Dangling Earring Pose
- Virasana / Hero Pose
- Supta Virasana / Reclined Hero Pose
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: Padmasana Pose Benefits & Breakdown
- Post: Bhujangasana Pose Benefits & Breakdown
- Video: Vajrasana Pose Breakdown
- Video: Deep Full Body Stretch (23-Minute Class)
Gear & Resources for this Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
Save 10% on cork yoga gear
- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
- Use our code AYO10 for 10% off all Corq yoga mats.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Thunderbolt Pose
Thunderbolt Pose may look simple but, if you have any sort of knee injury, this pose can be extremely challenging. My advice with this, and any pose, is to take your time. If you feel any pain in the pose, don’t push it. Instead, back off and take a rest.
I have several modifications listed above and hopefully one of those will help you find a version of Vajrasana that is accessible to you.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Thunderbolt Pose. It’s my goal to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply while enabling you to cultivate the strength and clarity needed to live your life adventure to the fullest!