Kurmasana (Tortoise Posture) and Supta Kurmasana (Reclined Tortoise) kurma means tortoise and supta means reclined. Kurmasana is one of the core postures in Primary series, it benefits are many. The previous pose, Bhujapidasana requires strength and builds heat in the body—the strength of Bhujapidasana helps to counter the flexibility required for kurmasana while the heat from Bhujapidasana helps to open the body for kurmasana. Supta Kurmasana introduces the leg behind your head idea—so why do we want to do that?? Placing your leg behind your head invigorates the spine giving it a deep stretch allowing good blood flow around the vertebrae, it strengthens your abdominals, and increases blood supply to the heart and lungs. As well increasing humility and decreasing pride . . . This is a very important pose many people struggle with it so they avoid getting into it—don’t repeat this mistake! These two poses are worth the effort.
Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana require flexibility and strength, most people practice Ashtanga yoga for over a year before they can even begin to attempt these poses safely. There are some preliminary poses that aid in the flexibility needed. However as with options to any pose—be careful not to get hung up on just practicing the option and not trying the full pose. You will be surprised, but one day your arms will just slip right under your thighs!
Benefits: These asana have a stimulating effect on the ‘Kanda’. The Kanda is not a physical element although it does coincide with the nerve plexus above the perineal floor, the kanda is the surface from which all 72,000 nadis (channels of energy which closely relate to our nerves) originate.
Kurmasana expands the thorax and increases the capacity of our lungs and the amount of oxygenated blood to our heart and lungs, yogic texts tout this posture for anyone suffering from heart disease, chest pains, asthma and bronchitis. The spinal cord is strengthened by this pose along with the bones of the spine, the kidneys are also strengthened by this pose alleviating kidney pains. Kurmasana also helps to balance the Kapha dosha in our bodies and reduce excess fat.