Kurmasana - The Tortoise
kûrmá कूर्म : tortoise; one of the vital airs which causes the eyes to close. Second avatara of Visnu, which holds the axis of churning during the churning of the milk sea (ksirodamathana क्षीरोदमथन).
This posture involves mainly the root center. It gathers all sensory and activity organs associated with it. In the small tortoise version it presents itself as follows:
The starting point is sitting with the legs slightly bent in front of the trunk and especially with the sole of the feet touching one another. During an exhalation, one hand goes under the calf, then the other. This allows the hands to grasp the toes on both sides. The hip then tilts forward, assisted by the pull of the arms that can draw the body forward. It is the time when the hips can be checked so that they are neither too far nor too close from the feet. Finally, still during an exhalation, the forehead is drawn towards the feet, and the face can even come in the space formed by the two feet. However, it is not necessary at first to touch the feet themselves.
Once the final position is reached, immobility is sleeked, especially that of the feet and hands. It is in that stage that, after 4 minutes, the archetype will start providing energy of soothing and quietness. This phenomenon will be observed only then.
This requirement of immobility is facilitated by a total concentration on the breathing and on specific gestures. In this posture, where the root center is involved, one must have the eyelids closed and the gaze in nasagra drishti (gaze on the tip of the nose). Even with the eyelids closed, the convergence must be maintained firmly. This is actually one of the main difficulty of this posture. The tongue gesture is either Jiva Bandha or better Khechari Mudra.
The breathing follows Samavritti, a square rhythm where inhalation, full-lung retention, exhalation, and empty-lung retention have equal length (note that the earth symbol and Tattva are associated with this center). During the two retention periods, Ashvini Mudra is effectuated: the internal anal sphincters are powerfully and rapidly contracted and relaxed. The relaxation of the root is only relative to the exacerbation of the contraction: in fact, the root must always be maintained in a low level of contraction (muladhara) which also applies in the inhalation and exhalation periods.
Finally, when comfortable, the length of the periods is extended from 4 to 5 and finally up to 10.
Great Tortoise Version
In this version, the starting point is with the leg parallel and slightly bent. Then, one arm goes under a leg while the other goes at the level of the knees. In this posture, the arms are held perpendicular to the axis of the body, the hands seeking the support of the ground with the fingers straight. The pelvis is again tilted forward and the forehead goes seeking the ground as far away from the body as possible. Little by little, the body goes down by extending the legs almost completely on the ground as well as the forehead. The hands are straight, the palms and finger rest firmly on the ground.
The concentrations and gestures are identical to those of the previous version.
This version is much more powerful as it also seeks to stimulate the Shivali located between the genital apparatus and the anus, which is the location of residence of Kundalini-Shakti.