The Half Tortoise Pose in Bikram Hot Yoga Series or Ardha Kurmasana in Sanskrit is a spine lengthening and stretching pose that works the whole back. Ardha Kurmasana, translated from Sanskrit to English, breaks down as follows: Ardha means half, kurma means tortoise or turtle, and asana as always means pose. The Half Tortoise Pose is an excellent posture to do outside of the Hot Room and can be profoundly calming and relaxing to do. It is used to assist with sleep disorders and insomnia, so if you have trouble sleeping, you can do a set of Half Tortoise Pose before you go to bed. Half Tortoise also helps open up the rib cage so it can help you breathe more deeply and fully. Let us explore in more detail how to do the Half Tortoise Pose in the following paragraphs.
To start the posture, come up on your knees in the middle of the mat. The next step is to bring your feet and ankle together, so they are touching. You can open the knees up more if you have a large stomach or are pregnant, so you can get into the pose more easily. The tops of the feet are against the floor, and sit your hips back towards the heels with the spine and upper body perfectly straight. Bring the above your head and cross the thumbs, so hands are in the prayer position.
Once you have your hands in prayer, stretch up towards the ceiling to create room in the spine and hinge forward as if you have a perfectly straight spine. Your chin should be slightly away from the chest so that you make the neck longer, along with the whole spine getting longer and flatter like a board. You need to make sure you are keeping your stomach pulled in from the moment you go into the pose until you are coming out of the pose. This can be difficult, especially as you are going in and out of the posture, but you need to try your best to keep the stomach pulled in for the posture duration. This part of Half Tortoise will get easier over time if you keep doing it.
As you are coming down forward, keep the arms with your ears and straighten out the elbows. You need to bring your head down below your heart. Eventually, as you improve in the pose, all that will be touching the floor are your pinky fingers, forehead, and the tip of your nose with the upper body in the air. Your arms should remain extended and perfectly straight for the duration of the pose. The gaze of the pose should be looking up through your eyebrows. Move your hips towards the back wall while simultaneously stretching your fingers towards the mirror. The stretch pulls the spine in opposite directions. You should notice your shoulders and scapula working independently from the rest of your body.
As you are coming out of the Half Tortoise, you need to really pull in your stomach. When you pull the stomach in, it helps to support your spine. Pulling the stomach in will help keep the spine straight like a board. Press your palms together and keep your arms straight and spine perfectly flat. When you get to the top, release your hands from prayer and lay on your back in Savasana. Let the Savasana help heal your body but especially the spine, in this active resting pose. You need to do two sets of Half Tortoise at twenty seconds each during the Bikram Hot Yoga Series.
The Half Tortoise Pose in the Bikram Hot Yoga Series is one of the more intense spine openers. Even though it is a very active stretching pose, it should be very relaxing as well. The most challenging part that I find in the pose is keeping your stomach pulled in the whole time. The way to view the pose is to stretch the spine in opposite directions like you are pulling a piece of saltwater taffy. It will get easier over time if you keep doing this pose, especially when moving in and out of the pose with the stomach pulled in. So be consistent and be persistent with this pose. I hope this post will help in have a better Half Tortoise Pose in your future practice. Namaste.