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