Kurma…means a tortoise…the asana is dedicated to Kurma, The Tortoise, Incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the maintainer of the Universe. As the legend says, during the universal flood, many treasures were lost including Amrita (nectar) with which the Gods preserved their youth. To retrieve the lost treasures the Gods entered into an alliance with the demons and jointly undertook the churning of the cosmic ocean. Vishnu became a great tortoise and dived to the bottom of the ocean. On his back was Mount Mandara acting as the churning stick and around the mountain was entwined the divine serpent Vasuki for the rope. The ocean was churned by the joint effort of the Gods and the demons in pulling the snake and twirling the mountain. From the churned ocean emerged Amrit and various other treasures including Lakshmi, the Goddess of beauty and wealth and wife of Vishnu.
Kurmasana is sacred to a Yogi…Krishna at the battlefield of Kurukshetra while describing the qualities of a Sthita Pragnya (one who is stable of mind) to Arjuna…says: “when again as a tortoise draws its limbs in on all sides, he withdraws his senses from the objects of sense, and then his understanding is well poised”. (Bhagavad Gita)In this pose the limbs are withdrawn and the body resembles a tortoise. The mind becomes calm and composed and one develops equanimity whether in sorrow or in joy. Mind will gradually become free from anxiety amid pains and indifferent amid pleasures, while the emotions of passion, fear and anger will loosen their hold upon the mind.