Face on the floor, bum in the air; feeling a bit like a wally... As ungainly as this posture can seem – the English name 'half tortoise' doesn’t do it any favours – it’s actually one of the most relaxing and energising postures of the Bikram series.
Ardha Kurmasana stretches the back and shoulders, and creates a stretch in the ribcage which allows full expansion of the lungs during breathing.
Ardha Kurmasana: Step by Step
1. Kneel down at the back of your mat with your feet and knees together. Inhale and stretch your arms above your head, with your palms touching and biceps by the ears.
2. Inhale, and on the exhale, contract your abs and with a straight spine, hinge at the waist (keeping your arms in place) and slowly, with control, lower your torso to the floor, face first. Your hands should come to rest on the floor with your baby fingers in contact with the ground.
3. Try to keep your bum in touching your heels, and relax your forehead on the floor. Stretch your arms as far forward as you can, and keep your chin forward so just your forehead is touching the floor. Stay here for 20 seconds, breathing deeply and evenly, expanding your ribcage with each breath. (If you can’t keep your bum on your heels at the same time as keeping your forehead on the floor, aim to keep your forehead on the floor in one set and your bum on your heels for the other. With practise you’ll be able to achieve both simultaneously).
4. To release, inhale and on the exhale, use your abdominal strength to lift your torso out the way you came in: spine straight, abs contracted and arms above your head with biceps touching the ears.
Ardha Kurmasana: The Benefits
"Lowering your torso down slowly firms the abdominal muscles and promotes flexibility in the hip joints which are often stiff in runners," says Olga Allon, director of Hot Bikram Yoga.
"Really stretch your arms forward and your hips back and down, as this will create space in your ribs and may help increase lung capacity. It also stretches the lower part of the lungs, so it ticks a lot of boxes for your respiratory system."
"Having your head lower than your heart increases circulation to the brain which promotes deep relaxation and can help if you suffer from insomnia. As well as being incredibly relaxing, this is the one posture of the Bikram series that can be done outside of the hot room."
To avoid funny looks and awkward conversations with your boss, just don’t try it during a stressful day in the office...
Bikram specialist Olga Allon teaches at London's Hot Bikram Yoga.