Bending like a turtle – How to do Supta Kurmasana

This week’s postural request comes from Alicia Diozzi at Green Tea Yoga in Salem MA.  Not one to hold back, she’s requested a sequence of postures to build into the admittedly formidable tortoise pose (kurmasana).  Since she’s given me free reign to choose one of its many variations, we’ll cut straight to the chase and go for one of the more challenging options  – supta kurmasana.

A brave yogini demonstrating Supta Kurmasana

Making progress with this one takes dedication and regular practice.  That said, over doing it is almost as bad as not practicing enough!  If you work on this posture every day, your legs and hips won’t have time to recover and you will have to work much harder than you need to to accomplish the final variation.  For best results, give your hips a break and practice this sequence every other day.  On your off days, work on some backbends and twists to balance your body out.

When working on a challenging posture like this, multiple repetition is your friend!  Research suggests that stretching a given muscle up to four times will help increase your flexibility faster than only stretching the same area once.  With that in mind, I’ve used our PranaVayu accelerated method to build a sequence of postures that will allow you to maximize your flexibility by stretching the outer hips, inner thighs and hamstrings multiple times over the course of a single practice.  However, since stretching the same range of motion too many times without a break can cause you to tighten up, I’ve included a series of side-bending and twisting postures in the middle of the set to give your hips an opportunity to recuperate.

Aside from supta kurmasana, the most challenging pose in this practice is the foot to the armpit pose (dandasana) which is pictured below.

In my experience, dandasana one of the best preparations for the foot behind the head pose so I decided to throw it in even though it’s a pretty challenging pose in it’s own right. If you’re not sure how to get into it, check out the this clip of Yoga23 founder Andrey Siderky.  He’s demonstrating the full extravaganza at 5:07 in the video below.

As always, get nice and sweaty with some jumping-jacks or sun-salutations before you begin this sequence.  Each posture creates the necessary flexibility for the one that follows, so follow the exact order listed below and hold each posture for a minimum of thirty seconds to one minute.  Feel free to connect postures in any way that you like, but in asymmetrical postures avoid doing more than three poses on one side before switching to the other side.

Beginning with the black and white photo of the pigeon pose shown below, practice the following half-hour sequence to build into Supta Kurmasana:

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