“By samyama on kurma nadi, the yogi can make his body and mind firm and immobile like a tortoise.”
Kurma means tortoise. In Hinduism, kurma is the second incarnation of Vishnu who, in the form of a great turtle, carried the world on his back. There is another mythology which talks about kurma carrying shesha naga (the cosmic snake) on his back. Shesha naga has a thousand heads and it holds the Earth on one of them. When it shifts the Earth from one head to another, earthquakes occur. The most powerful earthquake occurs when kurma moves slightly.
Kurma nadi is the name of an energy channel, it is one of the main nadis according to yogic scriptures. The beginning of kurma nadi is said to be in between of the Muladhara Chakra and Swadhisthana Chakra. It runs up and ends in the chest region, below the throat.
As we know, there are five types of prana vayus which govern the functioning of the body, they are prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. There are also five sub-pranas, or upa-pranas: naga, krkara, devadatta, dhanamjaya and kurma. Naga relieves pressure of the abdomen by burping. Krkara prevents substances from passing up the nasal passages and down the throat by making one sneeze or cough. Devadatta causes yawning and induces sleep. Dhanamjaya produces phlegm, nourishes the body, remains in it even after death and sometimes inflates a corpse. Kurma controls the movement of eye lids and regulates the intensity of light to be seen by controlling the size of iris. The movement of eyes reflects the movement of mind. It is often noticed that in a yoga class, after following the teacher’s instruction to close the eyes, students’ eyelids and eyeballs are continuously wobbling, which indicates their mind are very busy. By stilling the eyes, thoughts can be stilled.
Swami Hariharananda Aranya commented on this sutra from a different point of view: “Calmness is attained by samyama on the bronchial tube.” According to him, as the breathing becomes subtle, the mind becomes motionless.
To apply this sutra in daily practice, I personally prefer to samyama on the location where kurma nadi ends, i.e. below the throat. Do a few deep breaths, focus the mind at the location where kurma nadi ends. This will lead us to a motionless state – both motionlessness of body and motionlessness of mind. In the long run, we will develop emotional steadiness in all circumstances. This technique is extremely helpful for beginners who have problems in sitting still or those whose mind is always wandering.