The Half Tortoise pose, called Ardha Kurmasana in Sanskrit, is one of 26 poses that comprise Bikram yoga. It is usually performed toward the end of a yoga workout in order to stretch the body and allow the heart rate to return to normal. It can also be used at the beginning of a workout to prepare the muscles for more intense poses.
How to Perform Half Tortoise Pose
Sit down on a yoga mat with your buttocks resting on your heels; this is called Vajra Asana, or Diamond pose. Lift your arms to the sky and bring the palms of your hands together, intertwining your thumbs. Keep your arms straight with your biceps touching your ears, and straighten your back. Slowly lower from the waist until your forehead and pinkies touch the mat. Hold the pose for at least 20 seconds before coming back to the starting position with your arms straight up over your head. Release your arms and return to Diamond pose.
Half Tortoise pose gives the back a good stretch. Bikram yoga founder, Bikram Choudhury, claims that the pose can help practitioners live longer. The pose is also good for tense shoulders and necks, and helps increase the blood flow to the brain. Half Tortoise also stretches the lower part of the lungs, which can help increase respiratory capacity. This pose also helps tone the abdominal area and thighs.
Students who find this posture difficult can try a similar pose called Bala Asana, or Child's pose. To perform Child's pose, kneel on the floor touching your big toes together, resting your buttocks on your heels. Separate your knees to about hip-width apart. Slowly lower from the waist, placing your forehead on the mat, then swing your arms forward. Rest your forehead on the mat and bring your arms around to your side, palms facing up. Hold for as long as possible.
To increase the stretch, straighten the arms so that the wrists, elbows and triceps form a straight line. You will feel the stretch in your shoulder blades. Ensuring that your buttocks remain rested on your heels will also increase the stretch; this can be achieved by keeping your mid-section taut.
Do not draw your chin into the chest when performing the stretch. Try to keep it as far away from your chest as possible while keeping your forehead rested on the mat.