Tortoise Pose (Kurmasana) is, like it's namesake, all about slow and steady progress. This is a challenging pose that requires surrender in the hamstrings, hip flexors, spine and shoulders. In it's full expression, the pose brings about tranquility and introspection.
Follow these steps to come into Tortoise Pose:
1. Before you attempt this pose, warm the body with sun salutations and standing poses that stretch the inner hamstrings.
2. We'll begin with a standing version of this pose before putting it down onto the ground. Stand with the feet a generous hip distance apart and come into a bent legged forward bend.
3. Holding the right calf with the right hand, sneak the right shoulder behind the knee. Do the same on the other side. Bring the feet closer together to get the legs higher up the arms.
4. Bring the backs of your hands into the small of your back, binding the hands together if possible. Smile and breathe deeply.
5. Now it's time to bring it to the ground. Undo the hands and, keeping the legs behind the shoulders, place the hands on the ground behind you. Bend into the knees and elbows and have a seat with an upright spine as you pick the feet off the ground. Keep hugging the thighs into the arms to prevent slippage.
6. Angle the body forward to bring the feet to the ground and start to reach the arms out to the side with palms down. Gradually walk the feet forward and the hands out, angling the belly ever-closer to the ground. When you reach your edge, stop and breathe.
7. Finally, engage the thighs and open the knees until the feet hover off the ground. Press out through the heels and ball joints of the feet while spreading and pulling the toes back towards the face. Reach the chest forward and imagine you are poking your head curiously out of your shell.
Remember that it's possible to do this pose on the inside even if the outer form is not yet available to you. In fact, I would suggest that the inner attitude of patience and humility is really the point of this pose.
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