Uttana Kurmasana – Upside-Down Tortoise Pose, How To Do, Benefits, Effect On Dosha

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

This pose is the upside-down version of kurmasana i.e. tortoise pose. In this pose, the practitioner assumes the pose of an upside-down tortoise and hence the name.

Utthana = upside-down
Kurma = tortoise
Asana = pose
Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body

Preparation for Uttana Kurmasana

  • The upside-down tortoise pose, like other poses should be performed preferably in the early hours of the morning or alternatively in the evening if it cannot be performed in the morning time.
  • It shall be done on empty stomach and also while the bladder and bowel are empty at the time of doing the pose.
  • If it is done in the evening or any other part of the day, the practitioner should make sure to have food 4-6 hours before taking up the pose.

Method of doing

  • Start doing the pose with staff pose
  • Sit upright.
  • Keep your legs extended and outstretched in front of you.
  • Place your hands by the side of your hips, palms touching the floor
  • Elongate your spine from your pelvis, as if trying to raise your spine from the pelvic region straight up
  • At the same time relax your shoulders down the back
  • Now your torso is in right angles with your legs

Performing and getting to the Uttana Kurmasana

  • Now come into Padmasana – the lotus position
  • Here you are seated with your feet placed at opposite groins, the legs crossing each other (left foot at right groin and right foot at left groin)
  • Inhale as you lift your knees off the floor
  • Exhale as you bring your arms through the back of your thighs (push your arms into the space between the lower part of your thigh and upper part of your leg formed while in lotus pose)
  • Inhale.
  • Bend your elbows now around your flexed knees, bring your forearms upwards and hold your chin with your hands (the hands rest on the chin)
  • Now gently walk your hands from your chin to your neck
  • Now gently row back on to the floor such that your back rests on the floor with an exhale
  • Bring your arms closer to your chest in this position and work on rolling yourself into a ball
  • Relax the back of your spine as much as possible
  • Work out on your breathe and take fuller breaths
  • Draw your awareness into your body while focusing on your breath and pose
    Read – Types Of Pranayama – Effect on Health – Through An Ayurveda View-Point

Release from the asana

  • When you are ready to release, release your hands from your neck and interlace your fingers
  • Begin to rock up on the inhale and exhale back
  • Swing to and fro a few times until you get the proper momentum to role yourself all the way up to the sitting position lifting your back with a neat swing.
  • When you come up rest yourself by pressing your hands on to the floor.
  • Now on the exhale release both hands from the legs.
  • Come back to padmasana and then to dandasana.
  • Place your palms by your hips, palms facing down.
  • Now breathe freely as you internalize your awareness you’re your body and appreciate the healing and relaxing effect of this pose.
  • Release all those body parts which were active during the pose consciously.
  • Relax and release.
    Read – Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand Pose, Method, Benefits, Dosha Effect

Related Video

Watch this video to follow the method of doing Uttana Kurmasana

Health Benefits

  • Strengthens and increases flexibility of legs, thighs, hips, knees, back, pelvis and arms
  • Benefits muscles of core, hips, biceps and triceps
  • Provides good massage to your abdominal and pelvic muscles and organs therein and enhances their functioning capacity
  • Improves digestion
  • Builds awareness of the body and breath, makes breathing easy
  • Builds awareness of the central nervous system and strengthens the system
  • Provides balance, stability, flexibility, self confidence and concentration
  • Regulates and stimulates adrenal gland
  • Helps control stress, anxiety and restlessness, keeps mind calm
    Read – Anxiety Tips, Ayurvedic Treatment, Herbs, Home Remedies

Variants / Related Asanas

  • Kurmasana – tortoise pose
  • Supta kurmasana – sleeping tortoise pose
  • Garbha pindasana – embryo in the womb pose – is almost similar to uttana kurmasana but the body here is balanced upright instead of on the back as in uttana kurmasana

Modifications and Variations

If it is difficult to roll down with hands inserted behind thighs and holding chin, you can first roll down from the lotus pose and then insert arms behind thighs and reach out to your chin and then the neck with your hands or as comfortable as you may find doing it.

Same is the case with release from the pose. You can first remove your hands from behind your thighs and later swing back to the seated position if your find difficult swinging up with your hands tucked behind your thighs.

Time spent in this pose

Stay in the final position for 15-30 seconds while breathing deeply. Alternatively you may stay here for 4-5 breathe count or as you are comfortable to keep yourself in the pose.

Impact on Chakras

Since Uttana Kurmasana is a variant of Kurmasana, we can infer that it would have its positive impact on stimulating and activating the similar chakras which are addressed by the tortoise pose. Therefore uttana kurmasana is beneficial for balancing the Manipura Chakra i.e. solar plexus and Ajna Chakra i.e. third eye chakra.
Read – Chakra – Kundalini: Introduction, Meaning, Types, Location, Ayurveda View

Contraindications, Precautions

Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Uttana Kurmasana –

  • Injury to hips, knee, wrists, shoulder, neck or back
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Severe back pain and sciatica
  • Arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Spondylosis
  • Migraine
  • Heart diseases

Pregnant women may avoid doing this pose. This may also be avoided during menstruation.

Impact on doshas and tissues

Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – Seeing the benefits of this pose we can see that it has a major role in balancing vata and its subtypes. Since the asana has a positive effect in strengthening the pelvic organs and abdominal organs and enhancing their functioning capacity, we can see the pose balancing the samana vata and apana vata functions. Since it also enhances the digestion capacity, it is also beneficial for balancing pachaka pitta. It also balances the samana vata-pachaka pitta-kledaka kapha axis. Since it creates awareness of breath and strengthens the respiratory system it balances udana vata and avalambaka kapha. As it is good for the health of the nervous system, keeps mind calm and relieves stress and anxiety it is good for prana vata and tarpaka kapha. Since it provides balance, stability, flexibility and concentration the pose has balancing effect on vyana vata and sadhaka pitta too.

Impact on tissues – Since this pose stretches and strengthens the muscles and improves the flexibility of the muscles and joints of the body, it is beneficial for the muscle health and also for the channels carrying muscle tissue.

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)

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