How to do Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana): Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Also Known As: Vajrasana

Targets: Back, chest, and core

Equipment Needed: Yoga mat (optional)

Level: Beginner

Thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana) is a beginner yoga pose mostly associated with Hatha yoga. It is often used for meditation purposes, making it great for people who want to relax their bodies and mind. Add it to your meditative yoga routine for a soothing experience.

How to Do Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)

Vajrasana thunderbolt pose

 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

No equipment is needed to do Thunderbolt pose, although a yoga mat can provide comfort and support for the legs.

  1. Kneel on the yoga mat or other soft surface.
  2. Cross your big toes so your feet create a support for your bottom to rest on.
  3. Sit back with your feet relaxed and without placing the ball of the foot on the ground.
  4. Place your hands in front of you, on your knees, while keeping your arms relaxed. You can face your palms up or down depending on what feels comfortable to you. Pulling the hands into a praying position can encourage the flow of energy.
  5. Straighten your spine so your back is perpendicular to the floor and not rounded. Pull your shoulders back and tighten your core, pulling your navel into your spine.
  6. Engage your neck to support your head as you set your gaze forward, preventing your head from hanging down.
  7. Breathe in deeply and release the breaths slowly. As you inhale and exhale, your chest will expand and collapse. Continue to keep your back straight and actively avoid slouching as your breathing tugs at your posture.
  8. Close your eyes and bring your focus to your inner world.
  9. Stay in this position for your desired amount of time.
  10. Come out of the Thunderbolt pose by uncrossing your big toes, kneeling back up, and returning to a standing position.

Though this pose is simple and suitable for beginners, entering into the kneeling pose correctly is important for people of all experience levels.

Benefits of Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt targets the back, chest, and core. Unlike poses designed to stretch and release these muscles, Thunderbolt can help increase their strength. This provides a few health benefits.

For example, since this pose requires an erect position, it can increase upper body strength. This helps improve posture, which can correct slouching in your seat. In this way, Thunderbolt pose may alleviate neck and back pain associated with sedentary desk jobs.

Thunderbolt improves core strength since you engage your stomach muscles during this pose. This increased strength provides a solid foundation to perform more advanced yoga poses while making it easier to do everyday activities, such as lifting or moving heavy items.

Vajrasana also opens the chest and shoulders, making breathing patterns easy and fluid during meditation. When combined, Thunderbolt pose, deep breathing, and meditation can increase mental clarity and reduce stress.

Other Variations of Thunderbolt Pose

You can modify Thunderbolt pose to better suit your fitness level and needs.

Extended Legs for Reduced Knee Stress

Vajrasana requires some leg flexibility in order to hinge them and sit on your knees. If you are unable to get into this position, try extending your legs in front of you, as in Staff pose (Dandasana). This will remove some of the pressure from your knees and hamstrings.

Varying Sitting Positions for Beginners

When starting a yoga practice, everyone has to start somewhere. If Vajrasana makes you feel uncomfortable, start with another sitting yoga pose, like Siddhasana, Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), or Head-to-Knee pose (Janu Sirsasana).

Different Arm Position for Greater Challenge

Vajrasana is often made more challenging by bringing the arms behind the back. This opens the shoulders further and even engages the wrists. To do this, bring your arms around your back. Roll your shoulders and elbow slowly to avoid injury. Then, place your hands together in a prayer position.

Bending the Back for a Deeper Stretch

To make Vajrasana more challenging, bend your back so that your head is resting against the floor as demonstrated in Little Thunderbolt pose (Laghu Vajrasana). This will yield a deeper stretch in your back, core, and quads. It also opens your chest even further.

Sitting Poses for More Advanced Practitioners

If you’re ready to graduate from Vajrasana, you can ease into more challenging poses that still improve posture, offer meditative benefits, and engage your core. Two intermediate poses to consider include Locust pose (Salabhasana) and Knee to Ankle pose (Agnistambhasana).

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes to keep Thunderbolt pose both safe and effective.

Rounding the Back

This pose places a heavy emphasis on posture. You may have a certain idea about what you consider to be good posture, but Thunderbolt is very specific about its own expectation.

Rounding your back into a slouched, relaxed position may feel more comfortable, but this can actually cause neck and back pain. Keep your spine erect to get the most out of this pose.

Letting the Head Hang Down

Another common posture mistake is not supporting the weight of your head evenly on your neck. Focus your gaze straight ahead rather than looking down, which helps keep your head from hanging and placing strain on the neck.

Remaining Too Stiff

You should not feel pain while maintaining this kneeling position. Some parts of your body—such as your core, shoulders, and back—are engaged, but your overall body shouldn’t be tight or stiff. If you feel stuck in a certain position, release the pose and relax your body.

Releasing Too Soon

Some yoga poses can only be maintained for a few seconds or minutes. Thunderbolt is designed to be enjoyed for a longer period of time. To experience the full benefits, try to stay in the pose for at least 30 seconds. When used for meditation purposes, aim for at least 5 minutes.

Safety and Precautions

Vajrasana is generally a safe pose to perform. Simply keeping your back, neck, and head supported can help to avoid injuries.

If you have sensitive knees, you may need to modify this pose to keep from having them pressed against the floor. One modification to try is to place a folded yoga mat under your knees and shins.

When new to Thunderbolt, aim to stay in this position for 30 seconds. If you are meditating and can stay in it longer, work to hold this pose for 5 to 10 minutes, or as long as needed to help you relax.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Holtzman S, Beggs RT. Yoga for chronic low back pain: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsPain Res Manag. 2013;18(5):267-272. doi:10.1155/2013/105919

  3. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of lifeInt J Yoga. 2011;4(2):49-54. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.85485

By Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.