12.15.2011

Asana of the Week: Laghu Vajrasana

Laghu Vajrasana (Little Thunderbolt Posture) is a remarkable little posture in that it illuminates the role of the legs in protecting the spine during backbending and brings the crux of the spinal extension out of the lower back and up into the thoracic and cervical spine.

To enter the posture, begin in a kneeling position with the knees hip-distance apart.  As if preparing for Ustrasana, take a moment here to lift the chest and bring the pelvis forward of the knees.  When ready, take the hands back to the ankles and grip firmly with straight, strong arms.  Pull the pelvis forward, lift the chest, and with an exhalation, drop the head back and lower the crown or hairline to the mat, keeping the arms straight throughout the transition.  Do not take weight into the head.  Stay for five breaths.

The quadriceps and psoas must work strongly to control the spinal extension as the head is taken back.  Without committed activation of the legs throughout the entry and hold of this posture, you will not likely make it out the same way you came in.  The proper exit from Laghu Vajrasana is more challenging than the posture itself and must be kept in mind throughout your stay in the backbend.  After five breath cycles, inhale as you scissor the inner thighs and push with all your might into the hands and tops of the feet to pull yourself back up to the starting position.  Remember to keep the head back as you emerge or the low back will collapse and the burden on the thighs will be increased, causing a tendency to fall back down.

If it is too difficult to take the head all the way to the mat, build control by lowering only part of the way with the exhalations and lifting back up on the inhalations, continuing the motion rather than pausing for five breaths in order to ensure that the legs stay active and the breath is moving.

7 comments:

  1. This actually looks like it feels amazing. My teacher just gave me Bhekasana, so I'm not much further away from that whole backbending series. Gonna get interesting ;-)

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  2. Hi Tara - Looks can be deceiving. It does look like a nice front body stretch, but it's a surprisingly strength-oriented posture. Of course, your experience of it very well might be completely different from mine, but the primary sensation for me here is usually thigh burn.

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  3. I love your asanas explanation! thanks for sharing so many great poses

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  4. Hi Megan,

    I have a question on this asana: I used to practice it "the normal way", and had to push very hard, and also bend my arms to come out of the posture.
    By chance, the other day, instead of putting my arms on the outside of the legs and feet, I put them on the inside (I did not notice it at first). But the point is that: the exit of the posture was so easy, I could use the pression of my forearms on the heels to push up, and so not bending the arms...

    My question is: does this position of the arms is cheating ? ;)
    I mean: does this trick just help me, or does it changes the posture so much that the benifts are reduced??

    Thanks a lot (again) for the detailed asana explanations

    Louis

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    1. Hi Louis,

      I do think that the benefits of the posture are reduced by holding the inside of the legs, especially since the primary function of this posture within the Ashtanga practice is to build strength in the legs to support the bigger backbends. Laghu Vajrasana is supposed to be hard, and the exit is really the main event. It's ok to use the arms to assist the exit by pushing directly into the hands, but work toward using more leg strength and less arms in this posture overall.

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  5. Oh my god...my teacher just gave me this pose last Wednesday! Oh my...there is so much happening in this pose, lol. I love it, it's kicking my ass but I love it. I get about 3/4 of the way down, lose it and fall right on top of my head with no hope of coming back up, lol. It's also been GREAT for drop-backs! I have so much more control over them now! I think remembering what you said about not putting weight on my head is going to be really important, I'll have to make sure I focus on that when I practice it. Thanks again!

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  6. http://yogadragonden.blogspot.com/2011/07/final-day-of-ms-workshop-laghu.html

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