Half Tortoise Pose, Ardha Kurmasana

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Half Tortoise Pose Fundamentals, Ardha Kurmasana, (ard-ha-KOOR-MAH-sah-nah)

ardha (half) + kurma (tortoise) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Ardha Kurmasana

Pose Type: Stretching, Seated

Difficulty: Beginner

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing half tortoise pose

Give your spine a deep and rejuvenating stretch with this restorative Bikram pose.

Half Tortoise Pose Fundamentals

Half Tortoise Pose is a restorative and relaxing asana that is similar to Child’s Pose. The pose will lengthen your spine and release tension from the back, neck, and shoulders.

Although this pose seems to be extremely passive, it is not – and that’s where you’ll find the biggest difference from Child’s Pose. In this asana, you need to keep stretching your arms forward and squeezing the legs and feet together in order to actively stretch the back.

This asana is part of the Bikram yoga series, but you can perform it in any other flow.

It is also a great pose to practice if you want to take a moment to release tension from your back throughout the day.

This pose can be practiced as one of the preparatory positions for the Tortoise Pose, in that it can help you gain more spine mobility.

However, the two poses are quite different, and you’ll need to supplement your practice with other hip and back openers if you want to achieve Kurmasana.

On the energetic level, Ardha Kurmasana balances all the chakras from the Root to the Third Eye, so it can be helpful if you feel imbalanced and want prana to flow freely in your body.

Attaining balance in your energetic body will automatically make you feel more centered, joyful, and grounded.

Half Tortoise Pose Benefits

  • Stretches the spine and back, and also shoulders, chest, arms, and quads.
  • The deep spinal stretch helps release tension in the shoulders and neck and lower back.
  • This stretch will also help you achieve and maintain a healthier posture.
  • Activates abdominal breathing, which calms the body and regulates the breathing pattern.
  • Massages the organs of the abdomen, stimulating their function.
  • Calms the nervous system and aids in relieving stress.
an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing half tortoise pose

How To Do Half Tortoise Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

  1. Sit on your knees in Thunderbolt Pose.
  2. Spread the knees slightly apart, but keep the feet close together. You can sit on or between your feet.
  3. Raise your arms up to lengthen your torso.
  4. Engage your abs and slowly bend forward
  5. Place your forehead and hands on the floor. The hands are together in prayer mudra, and the elbows are lifted off the floor. Stay active in the arms and keep them straight.
  6. Simultaneously, make sure your buttocks stay on the feet or at least push them in that direction to feel a deeper stretch in the spine.
  7. Hold the pose for as long as it feels good, then release it.

Tips And Tricks:

  • This is a great pose to perform outside a yoga class for a moment of relaxation and restoration.
  • Much of the benefit and the stretch of this pose comes from keeping the arms straight, active, and close to the ears – so try not to get passive.
  • Keep the buttocks as close to your feet as possible to get a deeper stretch in the spine.
  • You can keep your breath natural and relaxed.

Half Tortoise Pose Variation:

Half Tortoise Pose Variation: Child’s Pose

an annotated image of a woman doing childs pose

This asana is similar to Child’s Pose, so you can use that asana as a variation or replacement.

The main difference with Child’s pose is the intention – in Child’s Pose you are passive, and in Half Tortoise you’re active. 

Although the latter is more intense, Child’s Pose can be just as effective in helping you release tension from the back. Read our full guide on Child’s Pose here.

Half Tortoise Pose Variation: In two sets

If you feel extra tight and need some time to enter this pose, you can perform it in two sets.

That allows you to slowly progress instead of trying to find the deepest version of the pose immediately.

In the first set, you can work on keeping the arms straight and placing the head down, but allow your hips to lift off the heels as much as needed. In the second set, do the opposite – keep the hips on the heels and lift your head off the mat if needed.

In this way, you’ll get the full stretch of your spine without entering the full expression of the pose.

Half Tortoise Pose Variation: With Props

a woman in childs pose with blanket and block

Using props is a fantastic way to make any pose more accessible and easier to hold.

In Half Tortoise Pose, you can use a pillow and place it between the thighs and calves or below the ankles. You can also lift the palms of a block or a blanket if you feel any pain or tingling in the hands and arms. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Curving the neck. Many students will tuck the chin into the chest in this pose. Although this is common for many other forward bends, try to move the chin as far away from the chest as possible (without feeling pain or strain). 

Injuries and Conditions

Avoid the pose if you struggle with an injury in the shoulders, knees, and abdomen. Also, refrain from the pose if you’re pregnant, as it compresses the stomach. 

Related Poses

Child’s Pose

Tortoise Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Thunderbolt Pose

Reclined Thunderbolt Pose

Downward Dog

Counter Poses:

Plow Pose

Camel Pose

Staff Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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