[Pose Of the Week] Ease Into Tortoise Pose (Advanced)
Find flexibility and inner peace with Tortoise Pose! Here’s how to do it, and why you should…
Tortoise Pose (Kurmasana) – also known as Turtle Pose – is an intense forward bend stretch that will challenge your range of motion and improve flexibility throughout the shoulders, legs, back, hips, and more.
According to B.K.S. Iyengar, author of Light On Yoga, this pose “tones the spine, activates the abdominal organs, and keeps one energetic and healthy… After completing it,” he says, “one feels refreshed, as though one had woken up from a long undisturbed sleep.”
This pose is believed to help the practitioner connect with one’s inner self. By practicing this pose, you can learn to shut out external distractions, and calm and quiet the nervous system, so it may be helpful for those suffering from anxiety or insomnia. It is also thought to improve respiratory function, increase flexibility in the spine and the lumbar region and reduce back pain and stiffness, improve metabolism, blood circulation, and digestion, relieve sciatica, and more.
It is a powerful pose, but be sure you are ready for the challenge! You should not practice this pose without fully warming up first. Good preparatory poses include Marichyasana, Side Angle Pose, Triangle Pose, Standing Forward Bend, Lizard Pose, and Wide Legged Seated Forward Fold.
Those who are pregnant, who have an existing injury to the hips, shoulders, or lower back, or who have severe sciatica should avoid this pose. This is an extreme stretch, so be sure to warm up fully, move slowly, and be mindful of your body’s signals at all times! If something doesn’t feel right, back off or come out of the pose.
How to Do Tortoise Pose:
Begin in Butterfly Pose, hinging forward at the hips. Allow 5 to 10 breaths in Butterfly to explore the range of motion in the hips and practice relaxing with the breath.
Then stretch legs legs wide for Seated Straddle Splits. Lengthen the spine with each inhale and, gently hinging at the hips, moving a bit deeper toward the floor with each exhale. Bring awareness to the stretch in the inner thighs and hamstrings. Remain for 5 to 10 breaths in Seated Straddle Splits.
From here, gently bend the knees, creating a space where the arms can reach through. Placing hands under the knees, spider-walk fingers out at an angle so the arms are stretching in opposite directions under the legs. This is a great place to pause and assess. If this expression of Tortoise Pose provides plenty of stretch, stay with it for several breaths.
For those whose spine can accommodate a little more length, on the next inhale, open the chest, and then exhale into a deeper fold allowing the legs to gently straighten as much as possible. With each inhale, softly expand and lift. With each exhale, deepen and relax. Allow your head to to gently relax in the same line as the spine (neither forcefully lifting nor tucking the chin).
You can remain in this stage of the pose for a few more breaths, or for more advanced yogis, try one further challenge: Wiggle feet towards each other in front of the head (feet may or may not touch in front). Then wrap arms under legs and around the lower back (hands may or may not clasp behind the back).
Remember to breathe slowly and evenly throughout the pose. With each exhale, imagine your body melting into the floor beneath you. If you cannot maintain even breathing, you may be working too hard. Come out of the pose a bit and focus on relaxing into it rather than pushing it.
Read more about this pose at YogaFit.com…