Recently, a member of my Patreon community asked if I could do a video about Thunderbolt pose. Vajrasana is a kneeling yoga pose, that requires ankle flexibility. The benefits of this pose are that you get a great stretch along the shin, front of the ankle and tops of the feet.
Specifically, this person wanted help with foot position in the pose so that’s what I focused on in this tutorial. For detail I added some tape to the midline of my foot to really demonstrate the parallel lines of the alignment in this pose.
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How to do thunderbolt pose – Vajrasana
My preferred way of coming into Thunderbolt pose is from all fours, with the knees together, shins parallel and feet pointing back. Lean back sitting the hips onto the heels.
Lift the torso up bringing the head in a line with the heart and hips. The hands place on the thighs and the gaze is ahead, or eyes closed. It’s a great pose for meditation, as an alternative to sitting with the legs crossed. Notice:
- Where does the lower leg connect to the floor?
- Is there any pain in the knees? If yes, back out of the pose and use the modifications below.
- Can you feel the connection of the tops of the feet to the floor?
- Do you feel effort?
- Are the front of the ankles connected to the floor?
- How does the pose feel?
- Is there any difference in the right compared to the left?
One main point here is the position of the feet. Notice where the feet connect to the floor. Are the toes turning in and your hips resting on the inside edge of the feet?
If the feet turn in, can you imagine the shins and feet on train tracks. Bringing them parallel to each other. While it may not seem a big deal, turning the feet in could be a cause of ankle or knee pain. If it’s not possible then continue reading for variations and modifications.
Regular Thunderbolt pose is a great stretch for the tops of the feet, ankle and shins. However, if you want to work through the plantar muscle on the bottom of the foot then try this variation with the toes tucked under.
Just as before the hips rest on the heels and the feet are parallel. The tape on my feet really shows how the feet are aligned. This can be a DEEP stretch for the bottom of the foot, if you have tight ankles then try this 30-minute ankle and calf mobility class.
Thunderbolt Pose Modifications
This pose is not for everyone. If you have knee issues I highly recommend avoiding the pose, or using modifications. For knee pain I suggest using a folded blanket between the thigh and calf so the knee is in less flexion.
If it still feels like a struggle use a block to sit on. Or, use both! If using a block draw the ankles in and “hug” the block. If you find there is a space between the front of the ankle and the floor, then consider filling the gap with a rolled blanket.
Modifying poses with props is a great way to make the pose accessible while you work on mobilization and stretching the problem areas. For more information check out my posts on ankle mobility, tight shins, and yoga props.
Thunderbolt vs hero
Many yoga poses look the same, but have subtle differences. So what’s the difference between Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) and Virasana (hero’s pose)? Basically it’s all again down to shin and foot position.
For Vajrasana the feet are narrow with hips resting on the heels. In Virasana the feet are wider, with the hips resting on the floor between the feet. Both poses the feet are pointing directly back with the tops of the feet on the floor.
Thunderbolt Pose Tips & Tricks
By now I’m sounding like a broken record but try to avoid turning the toes inwards. While it can be more comfortable it could end up causing issues in the ankles or knees. If you find your toes turning inwards, then modify using props.
One other tip is for my fellow bendy back people, holla! It’s pretty easy for those of us with flexible spines to ‘pop’ through the T12 and flare the ribcage forward and up. If this is you try the block on the head trick below.
With the block on the crown of the head, think about trying to reach it UP to the ceiling. You’ll know if you’re flaring or popping the ribs because the block will fall off your head and land on the mat behind you! It’s also a great way to stay connected and in the present moment because in the pose you have to focus on lengthening upwards.
Want more yoga?
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- Can you sit in Thunderbolt Pose?
- Do you prefer vajrasana or virasana?
- How flexible are your ankles?
Wow, this pose looks superb but my legs… They are… But superb helpful!
Really helpful, thanks! I’ve had issues with this asana in the past, but the more I warm up and relax, the easier it is. Using a block is the best for me.
Nice linear back! it looks so simple but I bet it is hard to maintain!
There seems to be a whole lot of yoga poses available for people to use. Great to know that yoga is not exhaustive.
This is one pose I’ve never heard of, or ever seen anything like before. I’m not sure I really get the need, but I suppose building up the strength and flexibility of your ankles now will benefit us all in life later on, so they aren’t so frail and weak.
Thank you for these instructions on the poses. I am always looking for details when I start a new yoga position.
I always wonder how you always manage to find a great theme for me. Can you believe my husband (who is also a yogi but with less experience than I have so he asks me a lot of questions in between on his in-person classes). Just yesterday he asked about this pose about his back position, I will give him a block tip for sure
This yoga pose looks deceptively easy, but I suspect it’s a bit more difficult. I love how detailed your instructions are!
As a yoga lover it’s nice to hear such useful tips from a yoga teacher. I’ve subscribed your youtube channel. Thanks a lot!