Supta Kurmasana – Sleeping Tortoise Pose, Right Method, Benefits

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Supta kurmasana, in this pose the practitioner assumes the pose of a tortoise in sleeping position and hence the name.
Supta = sleeping / reclining
Kurma = turtle / tortoise
Asana = pose

It is called as –

  • Sleeping tortoise pose
  • Reclining tortoise pose
  • Reclining turtle pose

It is one of the deepest poses of Ashtanga Yoga primary series. It is a challenging pose at the beginning but you can master it with practice.

According to Yoga Mala, an Ashtanga Yoga guide, this pose purifies the place of exit of spinal cord, the point known as kanda from where the 72,000 nadis i.e. the energy channels related to our nervous system originate.

It also is known to effectively purify your heart and lungs and eliminate the kapha disorders therein.

It is an advanced level seated forward bend which involves stretching and inversion and is also an effective hip opener.

It is a seated forward bend and an effective hip opener.
Read – Yogasana – Spiritual, Physical And Mental Benefits, Classification

Preparation for Supta Kurmasana

  • The ‘Sleeping / Reclining Tortoise Pose’ is practiced on empty stomach especially early in the morning.
  • If practiced at other times of the day, the practitioner should consume food 3-4 hours before taking on to the pose. This will keep your stomach empty by the time you go into practicing the pose. The food consumed would also provide energy to comprehensively do the pose with ease.
  • The bowel and bladder shall be kept empty before taking on to the pose.
    Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body

Method of doing

Positioning for the pose

Sit in Dandasana – Staff Pose
Sit straight with erect spine.

Getting into the pose

  • Now bend your left knee and keep left foot on the floor while keeping right leg extended right in front of you.
  • With the help of your hands hold left leg, lift it and bring left foot behind your back. Cross it over to the right. Now left heel rests right on top of right shoulder, toes pointing upwards. The leg rests against your upper back / neck. Keep back straight and relax.
  • Place your hands on the floor / mat and press against it.
  • Now bend your right knee and place your right foot on the ground, knee facing up towards the ceiling.
  • Hold your right leg with your hands and bring your foot behind your back as you did with your left leg. Now your right foot crosses your left foot at your back. The right foot is on the top of your left shoulder, toes pointing upwards.
  • Make yourself comfortable here and find a balance.
  • Make sure to rest hands on the floor in front of you.
  • While you press hands against the floor move your neck gradually as you exhale, bend and place your forehead on the ground.
  • Now slowly raise hands and bring them behind your back and interlock your fingers or clasp your hands to hold the wrists.
  • Be here for 5 deep breaths.
    Read – How To Do Pranayama – A Simple Pranayama Technique

Release from the pose

  • Release fingers and bring your hands to the front. Rest them on the floor.
  • Press your hands against the floor and slowly lift torso up and come to the center.
  • Now release the foot lock.
  • Release legs from behind your back one by one.
  • Extend your legs in front of you and come to staff pose.
  • Sit straight and relax. Breathe easily.

Variation 1

  • Sit in staff pose.
  • Bend both your feet and rest them on the floor.
  • Now move your legs a bit apart from the center.
  • Bend forward keeping your hands on the floor in between your bent legs.
  • Now place your forearms under your knees and take your hands behind your hips. Your hands are straight, moving back and behind you beneath your bent knees and palms rested on the floor.
  • Try to bring your feet close towards the center such that the big toes touch each other and the heels diverted from each other. Simultaneously bring your hands to the back as much as possible with palms resting on the floor. Bend forwards and place your forehead in the angle between your feet / heels.
  • Now bend your elbows and take your hands behind your back. The elbows curl and bend around your thighs while your hands reach your back. Interlock your fingers or clasp your hands. If you cannot touch both your hands at your back, use belt or towel as a connector.
  • If your flexibility allows you, you can also place one foot over the other ankle and lock them in a position.
  • Take deep breaths here for 4-5 times.

Release from the pose

  • Release in the reverse way.
  • Unlock your fingers and bring your hands to rest on the ground.
  • As you lift your head up withdraw your hands from beneath your knees.
  • Extend your legs and come back to staff pose.
  • Breathe easily and relax.

Variation 2 – continuing from tortoise pose

  • Start from assuming Kurmasana – the turtle pose.
  • Now rotate your hips externally. Move your heels close to your head.
  • Drop your shoulders down. Take your hands behind your back and clasp them or interlock your fingers.
  • Lift your feet as you inhale.
  • Cross your ankles over your head.
  • Hold in this pose and take slow deep breaths.

Release

Modifications

Cross your toes or ankles underneath your head.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCY7-YLfax0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkX2Qm5Dvbo

Health Benefits

  • The reclining turtle pose strengthens and benefits the muscles around lower, middle and upper back, core, hips, knees, and pelvis and neck regions. They are also beneficial for biceps, triceps and hamstrings. Therefore this pose can be used in Yoga sequences wherein these muscles are involved.
  • Stretches spine, shoulders and hips
  • Gives a good stretch to spine and tones it
  • Activates and tones abdominal organs
  • Helps reduce belly fat
  • Relieves pain in the back and neck
  • Helps in relieving some kinds of headaches
  • Beneficial for those suffering from diabetes and constipation
  • Calms and refreshes the mind
  • Improves energy levels

Time spent doing Supta Kurmasana

Hold the pose for few deep breaths or for half to one minute time.

Impact on Chakras

This pose stimulates, activates and energizes the Vishuddha Chakra – throat chakra and Manipura Chakra – the Solar Plexus / Navel Chakra.

It is said to balance vata and pitta doshas and also the related elements i.e. ether and fire elements respectively.
Read – Chakra – Kundalini: Introduction, Meaning, Types, Location, Ayurveda View

Contraindications, Precautions

Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Reclining Turtle Pose – Supta Kurmasana –

  • Sciatica
  • Slipped disc
  • Hernia
  • Chronic arthritis

Impact on doshas and tissues

Impact on Doshas and its subtypes –This pose is ideal in balancing vata and pitta doshas. The pose balances apana vata since it helps in receiving constipation. The pose balances the solar plexus and hence stimulates and energizes and balances samana vata and pachaka pitta. Since the pose calms your mind it balances the raja and tama qualities of your mind apart from balancing your head doshas i.e. prana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha.The pose also balances shleshaka kapha since it supports and strengthens the joints and muscles.

Impact on tissues –This pose helps in stretching, strengthening and toning up the muscles. It also stretches and opens up your joints and spine. Therefore it is beneficial for the health of muscles, muscle transporting channels and joints. Since it also reduces belly fat, it is good for the balance and healthy status of fat tissue in the body.

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