Ah, Supta Kurmasana. What a crazy, humbling, hard, learning experience. This pose, one of what are known as “gateway poses” (ones that people tend to get stuck on for a while before they can move on), took me around 10 months to learn. Up until that point, I’d flown through the primary series. It was mid-February 2018 – a month and a half into my practice – and I’d already completed half primary without any trouble from Marichyasana D (another gateway pose), learned bhujapidasana with relative ease, and was now being given the next posture. As my teacher instructed me into Kurmasana, the posture that immediately precedes Supta Kurmasana (without vinyasa in between), I delighted at how successfully my body slid into the pose, which looks as follows:
“Look how easy it is for you!” I remember my teacher saying to me. I felt proud that something which is difficult for most was “easy” for me. Then, however, she told me to watch in my feet so my knees were bent, to slide my shoulders as far under my knees as I could, wrap my arms around my back and clasp my hands. I did as she told me, but my hands were (seemingly) nowhere close to reaching one another. My teacher squeezed my elbows together so I could grab the clasp, but even then my hands popped right apart. This would be my experience for the next few weeks. Then, once I could hold my hands clasped once my teacher had helped me get there, they started crossing my feet in front of my head, which would inevitably make my hands pop back open again. It was incredibly difficult not to get frustrated, and I must admit that many days, I did. I started to approach the pose with a lot of anxiety because I wanted so badly to be able to do it on my own. I even spent most of my free time reading article after article and watching video after video about the pose.
Slowly but surely, it got easier. Suddenly I was able to keep my hands clasped while my teacher crossed my feet, and hold the shape for five breaths. Then I started noticing that when I reached my arms around, my hands were getting closer and closer. Sometimes I could make my fingers touch. My teachers kept telling me that I was so close, I could do it, my body knew how. It took time, and dedication, frustration, and a whole lot of sweat, but then one day…
I reach around and my hands met. Easily. They bound. I crossed my feet and I held the pose for the full five breaths. I stayed cool on the outside but inside I was dancing. Ten months of working up to this point and now I’d made it and could move onto the next challenge.
I have learned a lot from Supta Kurmasana and it has shifted from being one of my most anxiety-provoking postures to one that I genuinely look forward to in my practice each day. This posture genuinely made me more humble and taught me a lot about perseverance. It also drilled home the idea that progress is not linear. Since “getting” the pose, I have not been able to bind my hands every day. Most days, I can, and the days where I can’t are growing fewer and fewer, but those days still exist where I need my teacher to swoop in and squeeze my elbows a bit in order to get it. The first few times this happened I was unbelievably angry that I could have “lost” it. Now I know that it’s all just part of the process. You don’t “get” a pose and you don’t “lose” it either. One or two days of not being able to bind Supta Kurmasana does not mean that I’m not able to bind my hands in Supta Kurmasana anymore – it just means I can’t do it today. Yoga, like life, is ever changing and that’s okay. Supta Kurmasana helped me to learn that.