“Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements.” – Amit Ray, Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style
As with any type of exercise, it’s important to hydrate prior to starting a yoga session, and it’s vital to work within our own range of limits and abilities. The half-tortoise pose is a relaxing posture that gifts the spine with an invigorating stretch. I use it like bookends:
• At the onset of a session to assist the warmup process.
• Near the end, to gently help my heart rate return to normal.
Here’s How Half Tortoise Pose is Done
1. Sit on a yoga mat — shins on the floor — with your buttocks resting on your heels. Ensure that your heels and buttocks remain in constant contact; keeping your belly taut makes it easier to maintain contact and increases the intensity of the stretch.
2. Inhale deeply, lifting both arms to the sky.
3. Press the palms of your hands together, overlapping your thumbs. Your arms should be straight, biceps touching your ears.
4. Lengthen your spine and hold — feel the stretch.
5. Exhale deeply and slowly bend from the waist until your wrists, forearms, and forehead touch the yoga mat. To intensify the stretch, straighten the arms so that your wrists, elbows, and triceps form an uncurving line and you experience some stress in your shoulder blades.
6. Keep your chin as far away from your chest as possible while maintaining contact between the forehead and yoga mat.
7. Hold this pose for as long as comfortable, continuing to breathe normally.
8. Inhale deeply and return to the starting position with your arms lifted to the sky.
9. Exhale deeply, release your arms, and return to starting position.
The Benefits of Half Tortoise Pose
This pose induces a rush of blood to the head — providing nutrition to the brain — which improves function. Enhanced brain function slows down normal deterioration, decelerating the aging process. Performing the half tortoise pose on a regular basis helps balance serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain — two chemicals that are responsible for controlling the body’s sleep cycle — increasing the likelihood of a good night’s sleep.
In addition to a deep, relaxing stretch of the spine and shoulder muscles, the half tortoise pose helps tone the abdominal area, thighs, and improves the flexibility of the hips. It also massages and stretches the lungs, providing a measure of relief to people who suffer from respiratory disorders. An excellent pose for the digestive system, the half-tortoise pose can help to diminish ailments such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and associated symptoms: flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea.
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One of my favorite asanas, I love how I feel when I mentally affirm, “I blossom into the fullness of my being.”