Supta Vajrasana (reclined thunderbolt pose)
1. Sit in vajrasana.
2. Slowly bend back, taking the support of first the right elbow and arm and then the left.
3. Bring the top of the head to the ground, arching the back.
4. Place the hands on the thighs.
5. Try to keep the knees in contact with the floor. If necessary, separate the knees. Care should be taken not to strain the muscles and ligaments of the thighs and knees by forcing the knees to touch the ground in the final position.
6. Close the eyes and relax the body. Breathe deeply and slowly in the final position.
7. Return to the starting position in the reverse order, breathing in and taking the support of the elbows and arms.
8. Never leave the final position by straightening the legs first; this may dislocate the knee joints. Return to vajrasana first and then straighten the legs.
Note: While holding, maintain normal breathing.
Breathing: Deep and slow.
Duration: For physical benefits, up to one minute is sufficient. For spiritual benefits, practise for longer periods. Beginners should start with only a few seconds in the final position, increasing the duration slowly.
Physical - on the lower back, abdomen or breath.
Spiritual - on swadhisthana, anahata or vishuddhi chakra.
Sequence: Follow supta vajrasana with a forward bending asana.
Contra-indications: This posture should not be practised by people suffering from sciatica, slipped disc, sacral ailments or knee complaints.
Benefits: This asana massages the abdominal organs alleviating digestive ailments and constipation. It tones the spinal nerves, makes the back flexible and realigns rounded shoulders. The nerves in the neck and the thyroid gland are particularly influenced. The chest is stretched and expanded to full capacity, filling the lungs and bringing more oxygen into the system. It is beneficial for those suffering from asthma, bronchitis and other lung ailments. It loosens up the legs in preparation for sitting in meditation asanas. It enhances creativity and intelligence and redirects sexual energy to the brain for spiritual purposes.
Note: The Sanskrit word supta means 'sleeping' and vajra refers to the nerve and energy pathway which connects the sexual organs to the brain.
Variation: This method is the same as described for the basic form, except that the back of the head, instead of the top, is placed on the floor in the final position. Join the hands together and place them under the back of the head, or fold the arms comfortably above the head. Try to keep the knees on the ground. Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Breathing: Deep and slow in the final position.
Benefits: This is an important variation which intensifies the stretch of the abdominal region.
Practice note: The basic form and the variation may be performed one after the other, spending half the time in each pose.