Kurmasana: The Turtle Pose

Kurmasana - Turtle Pose

Sucking it up and putting your nose to the ground in Kurmasana.

It was the turtles, they did it, they bewitched me with their cute little waddle into the water as they embraced their nature programming and swam for their lives in the big beautiful sea, full of turtle danger.  It took me a year to get back here and turn back into a mermaid, but here I am doing yoga every day & nurturing myself with time in nature.

The days are flying past in a whirlwind of surfing, yoga, massage and adventures, and I’m starting to unwind the rigidity in my muscles laid down by the last 2 years of a desk bound, office existence.  They talk about stand up meetings, special set ups so people can walk on a running machine whilst working, but really, wouldn’t it be amazing if we had the time and freedom to be able to build more fitness into our daily working lives? If the job really was 9 till 5 with an hour for lunch. As fun as it is, if we didn’t have so much to cram into our free time.  The Doctor’s surgeries would be empty, drug companies would be out of business and fast food restaurants would all be selling salads and super food juices. It’s a simplified view, but we would all be much happier if health fitted more easily into our lives!

Kurmasana is one of those “what the?”, “how”, “impossible!” poses.  Some people are born with it and some of us have to work hard at it! My dear friend Prema used to just flop down into it like she was a rag doll and it was the easiest thing in the world. It has taken me years to get my nose down to the floor, let alone the chin!

It’s a posture for Pratyahara, withdrawing the senses, but on the journey down there you feel like that is the last thing that’s ever going to happen. The senses are heading off in all directions, the breath gets held in your attempt to push yourself flatter* *this means you are doing it wrong (you as in me!), the breath should always flow in Yoga unless you are purposefully retaining it in breathing exercises. If the breath is not flowing you are pushing yourself too hard or in the wrong way, either way you are not exercising Ahimsa with yourself.

What starts with a physical practice turns into a therapeutic journey, letting go of many concepts, ideas, hurts and barriers in the process. The physical, emotional and mental ‘bodies’ take it in turns to work through some issues, sometimes sharing the wealth. Sometimes we make a major breakthrough in the physical body and an emotional burden is lifted and gone for ever, sometimes we make a major emotional breakthrough and boom the hips open up like never before.

Life is Yoga. Those of us on the yogic path are never not doing yoga.  There is something to learn and grow from in every situation, every moment we are moving towards our destiny. Perhaps by the time you have let all the things go that are lodged in the hips and holding back the necessary forward bend, chest or shoulder opening, the floor doesn’t look like too bad a place to have your nose, or ideally chin on.

There’s a lot still to perfect in the pose, straightening out the back, pulling back the thighs, straightening out the legs, lifting the heels, keeping those knees tracking perfectly up, but as a work 10 years of yoga in the making, I’m proud to share my Kurmasana progress.

Kurmasana is one of those poses to be built up to within the practice with hip openers, forward bends/hamstring stretches, chest openers and warm shoulders to enable a comfortable external rotation. A recommended practice:

Sun Salutation warm up:

Surya Namaskar/Sun Salutations x6 to warm up the hips, hamstrings and body in general

Build in warriors 1 & 2, lizard pose, parsvotonasana, parsvakonasana, trikonasana & warrior 3 with garudasana arms before moving to the floor

Back bends:

Bhujangasana / Cobra

Dhanurasana / Bow

Seated & Fwd Bends:

Janu sirsanasa (head to knee),

Kapotanasan (pigeon pose) including the back bend

Gomukasana / Cow face – including gomukasana arms to open up the shoulders

Marichyasana I

Upavistha Konasana (wide leg angle fwd bend)

Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) & diamond forward bend

Kurmasana (turtle pose)

Finish with:

Matsyendrasana / Twist

Coming into the Kurmasana posture:

From Baddha Konasana, make a distance of 2 outstretched palms between your pelvis and heels in a diamond shape. As with Baddha Konasana hold onto the feet, inhale to lengthen the body and exhale folding down. Keep breathing and hold for about 30 seconds. Inhaling up, separate the legs, bend the knees & slide one arm under each knee, palm facing down.  The legs are going forwards at an angle, the arms behind you at a diagonal with the legs. Use the exhale breath to release yourself into the posture, effectively sliding the body along the floor.  Keep flexing the feet and externally rotating the thigs to keep the knees and toes pointing up to the sky. Relax the shoulders and keep them away from the ears.  Watch the breath to see how the posture is working for you and if there is still space in the body to move more, you can press the backs of the knees down gently to help the body flatten a bit more and extend the legs further, be gentle with your body & your joints.  There is no fast food version of this posture, don’t force it.  Eventually the body should slide flat along the floor with the chin forwards, then staying in this calm and steady posture, breath and withdraw the senses.

And then see above, keep working at it! There’s a lot still to perfect in the pose, straightening out the back, pulling back the thighs, straightening out the legs, lifting the heels, keeping those knees tracking perfectly up… 

Let me know how you get on!

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