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Benefits of Kurmasana and How to Do it by Dr. Himani Bisht

By Dr. Himani Bisht +2 more

Introduction: 

Do you wonder how yoga has become a celebrity-endorsed tool to live a good life over the past few years? Yoga has moved from ashrams in India to fitness studios, gyms and church basements in Europe, Australia and North America. The modern world consists of virtual yoga, where you find videos, online yoga sites, practice pages and blogs that teach you how to do yoga. Yoga consists of various gestures (mudra), breathing techniques (pranayama) and postures (asanas) that may contribute to several health benefits.1 Kurmasana is a posture that is practised in yoga. Let us look at some of the health benefits of kurmasana. 

What is Kurmasana? 

Kurmasana is also known as the tortoise pose. The word ‘kurma’ means tortoise, and ‘asana’ means posture. Kurmasana is one of the core postures known to have several benefits for the human body. The health benefits of kurmasana can be maximised when it is practised in the morning, an hour before sunrise. Kurmasana has two variations. One is supta kurmasana, the inclined or sleeping tortoise pose, and the other is ardha kurmasana, the half tortoise pose. In supta kurmasana, the forehead touches the floor, whereas in ardha kurmasana, the body is halfway. Uttanasana, which is forward-bending, garudasana (eagle pose) and utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose) are some of the preparatory poses for kurmasana.2 

kurmasana

How to Do it? 

Kurmasana is preferably practised early in the morning on an empty stomach. You can do kurmasana in the following steps: 

  • First, do the staff pose (dandasana) by sitting straight and extending your legs in front of you. Keep your hands beside your hips on the ground. 
  • Then, push your thighs on the floor and lift your chest while flexing your toes. 
  • Widen your knees as much as your shoulders. Then, keep your toes flexed and your knees bent. 
  • Now, extend your arms and chest towards the ground, between your legs. 
  • Fold your legs a bit more so you can keep your shoulders under your knees and stretch your arms to the side. 
  • Keep your thighs inwards and keep your legs straight. 
  • Stretch your arms and chest to the side while inhaling. 
  • Extend your spine forward while exhaling. 
  • Maintain this position for some time. Then take a few breaths and release.2 

Do You Know? 

Some interesting facts about kurmasana are: 

  • The pose kurmasana is inspired by a tortoise. Tortoise withdraws inwards when it suspects any threat around. Similarly, while practising kurmasana, we connect with our spiritual core by moving inwards.2 
  • In kurmasana, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, skin and mind are drawn to the inner landscape in the state of pratyahara (withdrawal of senses).2 

Based on my observations, Kurmasana must be practised early morning to avail of its maximum benefits. The best time to perform kurmasana is just an hour before the sunrise. To start with, you must perform certain yoga postures like utkatasana, garudasana, uttanasana, etc. involving the hip, back, and thigh followed by kurmasana.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Benefits of Kurmasana: 

Some of the potential benefits of kurmasana are as follows: 

Benefits of kurmasana for the respiratory system  

While doing kurmasana, the upper torso may be contracted, the arms may be stretched, and the lungs and chest may be pressed against the floor. The contraction of the upper torso muscles may further develop flexibility and improve the working of the respiratory organs.2 However, more studies are required to check if kurmasana may be beneficial for the respiratory system. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you suspect any issues in the respiratory system. 

Benefits of kurmasana for better metabolism  

The essential muscles of the entire body may be stretched as you practice kurmasana while paying attention to the alignment; the hamstrings, the entire abdominal muscles, followed by the muscles of the neck, shoulders, glutes, diaphragm, etc. Blood circulation, flexibility and range of motion may improve with stretching. As a result, the metabolism of the body might improve.2 However, further research is required to check if kurmasana can help to improve the metabolism. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you suspect any issues with your metabolism. 

Benefits of kurmasana for the spine 

 The muscles at the lower end of the spine, or the lumbar region, may be released as you move the spine forward, easing stiffness and giving it a massage. The pose might make the lumbar spine stronger and gives it a toned appearance due to its role in rotation, flexibility, and strength.2 However, further studies are required to check if kurmasana may help to strengthen the spine. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you suspect any abnormality in your spine. 

Benefits of kurmasana for blood circulation 

 In Kurmasana, the spine may be elongated, and the body folds forward, bringing the chest, pelvis, and abdomen closer to the ground. The flow of energy to the spine and the flow of blood to the body parts may be increased as a result of this movement; blockages may be opened.2 However, further studies are required to check if kurmasana may help to improve blood circulation.  

Benefits of kurmasana for immunity 

A study by Balaji et al. in 2012 showed that practising kurmasana may improve immunity. Kurmasana may support the thymus gland, which produces white blood cells that may fight against infections.3 However, further studies are required to check if kurmasana may help to enhance immunity. Therefore, you must focus on building your immunity.  

Benefits of kurmasana for diabetes mellitus 

A study by Khedikar et al. in 2018 showed that a yoga protocol consisting of kurmasana might help in the case of diabetes mellitus. Practising a yoga program consisting of kurmasana may reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.4 However, further studies are required to check if kurmasana may be beneficial for diabetes. You must check your blood sugar levels regularly and consult your doctor in case of abnormal blood sugar levels. 

Benefits of kurmasana for anxiety 

A study by Dwivedi et al. in 2022 showed that a yoga protocol consisting of kurmasana might be beneficial in managing anxiety. Practising yoga may help increase the levels of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger in the body, whose increased levels may reduce anxiety.5 However, further studies are required to check if kurmasana may be beneficial for anxiety. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you have symptoms of anxiety. 

Yoga practice may help develop the mind and body; however, it is still not an alternative to modern medicine. Therefore, you must not rely on yoga alone to treat any condition. Instead, please consult a qualified doctor who can assess your condition and advise accordingly. Moreover, it is necessary to practice and learn yoga under the supervision of a trained yoga teacher to avoid any injuries. 

You must perform kurmasana while keeping attention to your body limits. Regular practice might extend your body limitations. I would also recommend practising kurmasana at a slower pace and having an empty stomach to allow your body expansion to the fullest.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Risks of Kurmasana: 

The risks associated with kurmasana may be as follows: 

  • People suffering from sciatica and slipped disc shall be cautious before performing kurmasana. 
  • You must avoid practising kurmasana if you have a hernia. 
  • You must also avoid kurmasana if you have severe arthritis.2 

With the guidance of a qualified and experienced yoga teacher/yoga expert, we can assess and analyse the risk factors and continue to practice kurmasana with precautions. 

Conclusion: 

Kurmasana is also known as the tortoise pose. The word ‘kurma’ means tortoise, and ‘asana’ means posture. Kurmasana is one of the core postures known to have several benefits for the human body. Kurmasana may be beneficial for lung infections. It may reduce chest pain caused due to over-tiredness. Kurmasana may help manage weight, lower blood sugar levels, strengthen the spinal cord, improve heart health, enhance immunity and reduce anxiety symptoms. People suffering from sciatica, hernia, severe arthritis or slipped disc should avoid doing kurmasana. However, it is advised to do the pose under the guidance of a trained yoga professional. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1) What are the preparatory poses for kurmasana?

Uttanasana, which is forward bending, garudasana (eagle pose) and utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose) are some of the preparatory poses for kurmasana.2

2) How does kurmasana benefit the respiratory system? 

While doing kurmasana, the upper torso may be contracted, the arms may be stretched, and the lungs and chest may be pressed against the floor. The contraction of the upper torso muscles may further develop flexibility and improve the working of the respiratory organs.2 However, you must consult your doctor if you suspect any issues in the respiratory system. 

3) What are the risks associated with kurmasana? 

People suffering from sciatica, hernia, severe arthritis or slipped disc should avoid doing kurmasana.2 However, it is advised to do the pose under the guidance of a trained yoga professional. 

4) How is kurmasana beneficial in the case of diabetes? 

Practising a yoga program consisting of kurmasana may reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.4 However, you must check your blood sugar levels regularly and consult your doctor in case of abnormal blood sugar levels. 

5) Why is kurmasana known as the tortoise pose? 

Kurmasana is also known as the tortoise pose. The word ‘kurma’ means tortoise, and ‘asana’ means posture. The pose kurmasana is inspired by the characteristics of a tortoise. A tortoise withdraws inwards when it suspects any threat around. Similarly, while practising kurmasana, we unfold a feeling of connecting with our spiritual core by moving inwards.3 

 

References: 

  1. Lalonde AM. Embodying asana in all new places: transformational ethics, yoga tourism and sensual awakenings (Doctoral dissertation). Available from: https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/bitstream/handle/1828/4453/Lalonde_Angelique_PhD_2012.pdf?sequence=9 
  1. Top 5 health benefits of Kurmasana (tortoise pose) (2019) Rishikul Yogshala. Available at: https://www.rishikulyogshala.org/top-5-health-benefits-of-kurmasana-tortoise-pose/ (Accessed: December 16, 2022). 
  1. Balaji PA, Varne SR, Ali SS. Physiological effects of yogic practices and transcendental meditation in health and disease. North American journal of medical sciences. 2012 Oct; 4(10):442. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/pdf/NAJMS-4-442.pdf 
  1. Khedikar SG, Erande MP. MANAGEMENT OF DIABETES MELLITUS THROUGH AASANA AND PRANAYAMA. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sachin-Khedikar/publication/328305138_MANAGEMENT_OF_DIABETES_MELLITUS_THROUGH_AASANA_AND_PRANAYAMA/links/5bc56bfe458515f7d9bf2675/MANAGEMENT-OF-DIABETES-MELLITUS-THROUGH-AASANA-AND-PRANAYAMA.pdf 
  1. Dwivedi S. The Addressing Anxiety Disorder through Indigenous Therapeutics: A Review. Dev Sanskriti Interdisciplinary International Journal. 2022 Jul 31; 20:27-35. Available from: http://dsiij.dsvv.ac.in/index.php/dsiij/article/view/265 

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