Kurma means tortoise. The human body takes the form of a tortoise as the arms are outstretch on either side of the body, the legs are over the arms, the chest and shoulders on the floor. This posture resembles the tortoise with his legs out.
In the next stage the hands are brought behind the body, palms facing up. This final stage of the pose resembles a tortoise withdrawn into its shell, also known as supta kurmasana, or sleeping tortoise. In this asana the feet curl together in front of the head, and the hands close over the buttocks.
This posture emphasizes the need for the slow development of all asanas if they are to be experienced in depth. The slowness as symbolized by the tortoise is should be taken as a steady and in-depth progress.
Sit with your legs apart.
Place your knees up by keeping the feet flat on the floor.
Bend forward and bring your arms and shoulders under you knees, hands pointing back towards the hips, palms facing down.
Slowly stretch your legs out, pulling your torso forward.
You can also exhale and bend forward by walking your hands along the floor until both legs and spine reach their maximum stretch. Never over strain, inhale and exhale breathing normally as you hold.
Benefits of Kurmasana
The whole spine is stretched forward in a lengthening state. The abdominal organs automatically receive an internal massage. The circulation to the hip joints is increased. This forward bend allows the head, neck and shoulders to relax.
Always work within your own capacity. Never move into pain. Enjoy the pose, and listen to your body. This is your greatest protection for preventing injury.
"When like the tortoise, which withdraws on all sides its limbs, he (the aspirant) withdraws his senses from the sense-objects. Then wisdom becomes steady. The tortoise symbolizes looking inward, and controlling very carefully what is put out. "