Tortoise (Sanskrit Term: Kurmasana)

Written by Sandy. Posted in: Empower Your Yoga Practice
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Tortoise (Sanskrit Term:  Kurmasana)

Kurmasana is called yoga turtle pose as it imitates a turtle pulling its head into its shell. It is said to help reduce fat in your belly and hips.

Since this month’s newsletter is focusing on being present so you can notice the small wonders in your life, I chose tortoise pose for its contemplative aspects.  Meditating on the tortoise nadi, an energy channel found in the sterna notch of the throat, brings about steadiness according to the Yoga Sutras.  In meditation, we come closer to our inner being by quieting the mind.  This focus of attention is an important aspect of meditation as well as in our yoga practice. Asking yourself where your mind is at brings you back to the present, back to your practice.

Taking a line from Rhonda Byrne and her book, The Secret, she suggests asking yourself throughout the day “what am I thinking?”  This little question brings you back to the present moment, which we are constantly trying to escape.  This question makes you aware.  As she puts it, the moment you ask, you are aware.  The highlighted deck/card below, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle says it even better:  “When the compulsive striving away from the Now ceases, the joy of being flows into everything you do.  The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace.”

Tortoise Pose is a great pose to embody the essence of “Now”.

Alignment Cues:

Begin in a seated straddle position and bend the knees.  Slide the arms as far as possible underneath each calf, palms down.  On an inhale, open your chest and elongate your spine.  On an exhale, slowly straighten your legs releasing them onto your arms as the body folds forward toward the floor. Continue to lengthen on the inhales and release on extended exhales according to your own range of motion. 


Advanced versions: Bring the soles of the feet together until the soles touch.  Wrap your hands underneath and around the body, resting on the back; or clasping them (not in my practice!)

Beginner’s tip: Still unsure on your form or new to yoga? You can try a practice pose.

Keeping the knees bent is a great way to embody this pose.

I sometimes modify further by suggesting you bring your hands to the ankles vs. the floor which is even more comfortable to me.


  • Strengthens abdominals
  • Stretches hips, groin, hamstrings, shoulders, and both upper and lower back.
  • Cleanses internal organs.
  • Tones the spine.
  • Reduces your fat in your belly and hips.

Contraindicated for:

  • Low back problems (avoid full forward bend)

From “One Spirit Book of Days” brought to my attention from a dear friend at the Healing Loft (http://www.thehealingloftmpls.com), Katie Fahnel:

“A cosmic myth of Hinduism describes how the world is carried on the back of a turtle—a vivid metaphor for some of the balancing acts that life requires all of us to perform from time to time.  The difficulties might sound impossible when stated plainly and succinctly.  Yet wherever there are challenges, many will rise to them and succeed.  Break down the overall picture into its component parts to obtain a less daunting idea of what’s needed.  Human resourcefulness is inexhaustible.  Have faith in yourself:  move the world in your own way.”