Challenge Pose: 4 Steps To Master Tortoise Pose

Move inward and quiet your mind as you transition step by step into Kurmasana.

PREVIOUS STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Prep Poses for Kumasana (Tortoise Pose)

Benefit: Lengthens your spine; opens 
your shoulders; helps you withdraw 
your senses; quiets the mind in preparation for meditation

  • Step 1

    Step 1

    Sit in Dandasana with your legs 
straight in front of you and your hands 
on the floor alongside your hips. Press your thighs into the floor, flex your feet, and lift your chest. Bring your legs to 
the edges of the mat, with your knees 
as wide as your shoulders. Take a few breaths here.

    See also Draw Inside in Tortoise Pose

  • Step 2

    Step 2

    Bend your knees, and keeping 
your feet flexed, bring them closer to your hips. Extend your chest and arms forward and down between your legs.

    See also Slide Back Into Your Shell: Tortoise Pose

  • Step 3

    Step 3

    Bend your legs even more, so that you can put your shoulders one by one under your knees. (If this is too difficult, continue to work on forward bends.) Once there, stretch your arms out to the sides. Roll your thighs inward and extend your inner heels, without creating tension in the feet. Spread the front of your chest and collarbones forward and down with the help of the pressure of your thighs on the shoulders or upper arms. Push your inner heels down and forward to stretch and straighten your legs. Your inner thighs should remain in contact with your side ribs.

    See also Challenge Pose: Kurmasana

  • Step 4

    Step 4

    Inhale to continue to stretch your arms and chest out to your sides. Exhale to extend your spine farther forward. Do not force your legs; instead relax and exhale to release as far as you can into the pose. If you feel pain 
under your knees, take your arms slightly forward. Stay for a few breaths, then slowly come out of the pose. Repeat a few times.

    Stay safe
    Practicing Kurmasana is the practice of respecting your own limitations. These limitations are different from day to day, 
so you need to continually observe your body and mind and make sure that you are not fighting against your limitations. 
To overcome them, work slowly, doing enough preparatory poses. On your way to Kurmasana, you can add more forward bends, and repeat if necessary. And it is OK if you never get to the full expression of the pose. Kurmasana teaches us tolerance and compassion for ourselves, as well as for others.

    See also 6 Steps to Master Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)

    About Our Pros
    Teacher Gabriella Giubilaro began practicing yoga in 1973 in Florence, Italy, with Dona Holleman. She has been to India many times to study directly with B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, and Prashant Iyengar and she is the director of the Istituto Iyengar Yoga of Florence where she teaches regularly, in addition to her workshops worldwide. Model Laura Antelmi has studied for 29 years with Giubilaro, in addition to B.K.S. Iyengar and Geeta Iyengar. She owns the Iyengar Yoga Center of Boulder, in Colorado, and teaches workshops internationally.