Tale of the Turtle, or Ardha Supta Kurmasana

Supta K is finally getting interesting again. Back when I first started working on it, I both relished and feared the discomfort I would feel, the sense that my collarbones would shatter beneath the weight of my legs, my legs made heavier by hips that were open enough for a truly excellent lotus, but not nearly open enough to comfortably send my legs on a trajectory straight up the back of my body. As soon as I lay squashed in Kurmasana, my heart would race as I waited, with a mixture of dread and glee, for my teacher to take hold of my limbs, one by one, and wrap me up like a little package. Of course there never seemed to be quite enough twine to get that package closed. But that’s an old tale. No need to repeat it now.

After a short while, it came to pass that my heart no longer raced as I awaited my teacher’s footsteps. The thrill was gone. All that was left was the futile attempts to bring fingertips to fingertips around the backs of my legs and back and hold them there as my legs exerted what felt like thousands of pounds of pressure on my arms, causing my arms to spring outward, my fingers to leap apart, inevitably, depressingly.

Sir said my arms seemed to not rotate in my shoulder sockets. It felt to me as if my shoulder sockets were filled with wet cement where my arms were attached. I eagerly awaited my surgery in October which promised to soften the muscles, releasing my arms to rotate freely. And in that sense, the surgery has been a success. My arms are far more free now to rotate, although I am still in the process of waking up the muscles and teaching them how to rotate once again, particularly on the right side. But my muscles are eager students, and I’m quite kinesthetically oriented. So I figure that with a little practice, my muscles will memorize the feeling of a nice deep internal rotation.

But now that the arms are moving, it becomes apparent to me that the legs are in the way. And this is how Supta K has finally become interesting. As I begin to notice my hips softening, I am finally able to work my shoulders pretty much completely under my legs, freeing my arms to rotate as they need to. Stuck at home with sick children as I have been for more than two weeks now (Adam is now sick – fever of 104 degrees!), I have been working by myself on Supta K, getting myself as far into it as I can on my own, which is further and further every time I try.

At this point, I am not even ATTEMPTING to get my arms behind my back, and oddly enough, this seems to be the key to my progress. For anyone who thinks it might help, here is what I have been doing:

I start out by getting myself into a kind of lacksadaisical, wide-legged Kurmasana (I mean no disrespect to the yogini pictured here or to anyone whose Kurmasana looks like this…it’s just that for my particular anatomy, there is no way that I would be able to get into Supta Kurmasana from a Kurmasana with legs spread this wide).

And then I bend my legs and start to work my shoulders behind the legs.

At that point, I go BACK to Kurmasana and lie there for a while, breathing, sweating, giving relaxation my best shot.

After a while, I bend my legs again, and work my shoulders even deeper behind my legs.

When I get my shoulders as far under as I can, I cross my ankles (like the photo below, with ankles crossed on the floor over the crown of my head, but without a belt, arms are still reaching freely).

At that point, my legs are usually slippery with sweat, and my arms slip even further under. I then begin to stretch my feet forward, which gives me room to begin ascending my ankles up onto the back of my head and towards my neck. They are not at my neck yet, not even close. But they are not on the floor in front of my forehead anymore, and that is making a huge difference (it feels like they are about where this guy’s ankles are…just ignore the fact that he is nicely bound, and nicely inked, and picture instead, my unadorned arms reaching outward and away from one another):

Meanwhile, I am rotating my arms in my shoulder sockets, inward and then outward, outward and then inward. Finally, when I feel that I have reached the end of my ability/desire/motivation to stay in that limbo between Kurmasana and Supta K, I stretch my fingers out to the sides as far as they can go, palms down and then wiggle my shoulders a bit to feel the freedom of not having my legs pressing down on them.

And then if I am lucky, I manage to walk my hands in front of me, and actually press myself up with my ankles crossed.

At this point, that lasts for about one second before my ankles snap apart. But it’s progress.

Progress. That’s all I wanted. That’s enough for me right now.

YC

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