It’s not the aim of Yoga to make life complex. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Many of the yamas and niyamas ask us to strip away the unflattering accessories of life that don’t serve us. What is left is the simplicity of being. The same simplicity should guide your approach to asana.
When people begin a Yoga asana practice, many think that progress means that they will be able to tackle what are mislabeled as advanced poses. But Yoga has no levels -- these are only creations of the modern times that build the lower ego and fuel competition. Different poses challenge us at different times, and all are important. Some days, the most advanced pose you can do is one that asks you to be still in a world that constantly moves.
Vajrasana, or thunderbolt pose, is a pose that allows for this stillness. It seems simple to just sit on your ankles and breathe, but if you’re looking to calm an active mind, simple is where you want to be.
Simple does not mean that vajrasana is not worth doing, or that it is a pose that allows you to check out. If you sit in a chair all day, the muscles along your spine will likely be quite challenged by staying erect for 15 or more breaths. And staying connected to your body the entire time you are in vajrasana is a workout for the mind. This is a pose worth doing and doing consciously.
Vajrasana also brings a great benefit to digestion. It invites prana and blood flow into the first three chakras, or the area between the base of the spine and the diaphragm. It’s a great practice after a meal or as a regular part of your asana practice to help the digestive organs do their jobs. Bring vajrasana as an offering after a holiday meal. Your gift will be helping your loved ones experience the joy of finding connection through stillness and balanced agni.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Vajrasana from the ground up
You should not feel pain in vajrasana, including your knees. With the modifications we’ve included, this pose is accessible to anyone, anywhere.
1. Begin in a kneeling position with your legs, feet and heels together.
2. Sit down, keeping your heels together or at least facing straight up.
3. Lengthen your spine. Place your hands on your thighs or in anjali mudra. Hold for 15 or more breaths.
Use a cushion (or several) between your buttocks and heels if you have knee pain or you cannot keep your heels straight up or touching. This will alleviate the flexion in your knees.
If the fronts of your ankles are tight and painful, place a small towel or cushion roll between your ankle and the floor.
Common trouble spots
Rounded or excessively curved spine. Keep your spine in its natural curves. You don’t need to force vajrasana.
Leaning too far forward. Keep your back erect. Your head should remain in a natural position above your shoulders. Use as many cushions or props as you need to find comfort.
Heels splayed. Your heels should be together or, at a minimum, facing straight up. When they are open as shown in this picture, the outside of your ankles become overstretched and weak.