From The Bhagavad Gita, chapter two, verse 58, Krishna says to Arjuna, “Having drawn back all his senses from the objects of sense, as a tortoise draws back into its shell, that man is a man of firm wisdom”.
When a person feels threatened or startled, the brain sends an immediate signal to do physical defensive reaction where the mind responsively draws inward. The connection to the world around is suddenly disconnected and out of focus, only inner world becomes crystal clear and self-centered. Just like a frightened tortoise, hiding inside its own shell.
Kurmasana or Tortoise Pose is the most challenging pose for me in primary series. Some people find it easy and effortlessly jumping into this pose then breath. Being an Ashtanga regular practitioner for number of years is not giving you a guarantee to master all the poses perfectly or at least nearly there, mostly when the body is unnaturally flexible and the ego or emotion are still dominated. The mind filled with thoughts that flying around seeking for attention then confuses the body. Stress! Hard work! The legs, arms, face, even the mind were giving strong resistance and fearful feelings whenever stepping into this pose. Until at one point of no return, the feeling of submission was filling up the entire body, the senses of eyes, ears, skin, nose, mouth and also to the mind like an electric shock. Breath… Slowly draw inward like a tortoise, move into the posture with control, then feel the sensation to go deeper in the pose, giving time to perceive instead of resist.
The action of the submission or being surrender is defined as sense withdrawal, meaning the conscious withdrawal of energy from all the senses, known as Pratyahara – The fifth limb of Ashtanga, Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. Being free of external distractions will lead you to rest in atman – the true self. Pratyahara is the threshold to your inner world. Your mind becomes less reactive to the swirling distractions of the world around you, and as a result, you feel quiet and centered.
No surprise Kurmasana is the most challenging pose and it is so sloooowwww… to get there just like how the tortoise moves. Every step has a deep meaning behind, preparing yourself to the next level, always be conscious and raise your awareness. Supta Kurmasana will be the next one!
Sri Ram Jai Sita Ram
Rhea – Ashtanga 200hr, weekday 2015