Kurmasana is one of the harder and more complicated poses of the Ashtanga primary series. I’m not going to lie, when my body finally opened up to the full pose, I was overjoyed! Even now, I can only fully get this pose when truly warmed up.
It can be an incredibly daunting pose from its appearance for beginners and, even intermediate level students.
Sanskrit Name: Kurmasana
How to do:
Kurmasana is a floor pose which is usually practiced at the end of the yoga series when the body is really warmed up. It’s not a pose which should be taken lightly, and you should work yourself up towards it. Don’t attempt to get into it without prior research and practice. You’ll need to warm up your muscles and release your hips, thighs and the back of your body.
You can initiate the pose from a seated position, or transition into it from downward facing dog. Do whichever makes you feel more comfortable for your first time, especially if you’re new to yoga in general - in fact if you’re new, then I’d stay away from this pose altogether.
If you’re finding it difficult to fold forward completely, you could benefit from using bolsters or blocks. Position the block in front of you and rest your torso onto it. This way, you’re still practicing the pose, but it’s alleviating some of the strain. Your flexibility is key for this pose, so if you’re feeling quite stiff, using modifications will ease you into it.
Although this pose is physically demanding and it can be tough to get right, the payoff is undeniable. The tortoise pose can encourage reconnection with yourself and your surroundings. Just like the shell of the tortoise, this pose will make you feel protected and strong.
If you’re struggling to slip into this pose, you could try the half tortoise (Ardha Kurmasana). It still stretches out your back but is a little more relaxing and easier for beginners. You could even transition from child's pose to the half tortoise and go on to attempt the full pose later down the line.
Kurmasana has proven to be therapeutic for those who suffer from asthma, as it stretches out the lungs. It’s also a great posture for combating indigestion, flatulence, constipation and other bowel-related ailments. If you perform this pose or half tortoise regularly, you should see a positive change in your sleep patterns.
Tortoise pose focuses heavily on the use of the hips and pelvis. If you’ve had a recent injury in this area, you should refrain from trying this pose until you’re given the all-clear by a doctor. If you suffer from an illness which affects these areas as well as the legs, spine and shoulders you should approach with caution.