Kurmasana, or ‘tortoise pose’, carries with it that sense of inward focus, much like a tortoise drawing in to it’s shell. When we begin to focus more on what’s going on inside, we deepen our yoga practice and learn to cultivate ‘pratyahara’ or ‘sense withdrawal’, one of the eight limbs of yoga, laid out in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This deeper awareness helps us to learn more about our bodies and minds, and differenciate between our ego (that voice chattering away in your head…. You know the one…) and our true self.
Physically though, it’s all about hips and hamstrings.
Warm up with a few rounds of sun salutation B (focus on holding utkatasana or ‘chair pose’ for a little longer than usual to get the thighs warm and working, work through some warrior poses, and preparation for Garudasana or ‘eagle pose’.
Then try these asanas before attempting the full Kurmasana.(**be mindful of compression of the collarbones if you’re able to come all the way in to the pose!)
The next step is to hold these poses for a few breaths to get deeper in to the hips and hamstrings:
Finally, How to:
- Come in to Tarasana or ‘star pose’, which is just like Baddha Konasana, apart from your feet are further away from you, (about 50cm ish!) so the shape between the legs resembles something like the shape of a diamond.
- Elongate the spine as you reach and fold forwards, with the chin slightly tucked and leading with the chest – when you’ve folded forwards as much as you can, then begin to round the spine slightly.
- Slide the hands underneath the legs and forwards to hold the tops of the feet.
- Take a few breaths here and get as comfortable as seems possible….
- If you’re ready to move on, begin to separate the feet and the hands.
- Slide the hands out to the side, palms flat on the floor
- Begin to slide the feet forwards, heels grounded and toes pointing up to the sky as you continue folding forwards.
- Deepen each movement until you find your ‘edge’ i.e. you can feel yourself working and progressing, but you’re not torturing yourself.
- Stay here for 5-10 breaths and bring your focus inwards just like the tortoise!
- Coming out can be tricky, so be careful; begin to gently slide the feet towards you again until you’ve bent the knees enough to allow the arms to come out from underneath the legs.
- Come back to tarasana, then extend the legs and sit up in dandasana or ‘staff pose’.
- Ideally, take a pose which will help to open up the chest again, just something simple like pursvottanasana, which will bring strength back to the hips and hamstrings, or a few cat/cows, focussing on opening the chest.
Focus, and have fun!