Parvati, MAPS, Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, tortoise pose

How You Can Develop the Inner Wisdom of the Tortoise

If you would like to deepen your understanding of yourself and how you are feeling, breath awareness offers unique and profound insight. It connects your inner, personal world of sensations, thoughts and experience, with the outer world that unfolds around you. For this reason, breath awareness is central in the practice of YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine. This month, I share a gentle, restorative pose that can help you stay grounded and present.

One of the more introverted yoga poses, this gentle modification of the forward bending Tortoise pose is a welcome relief at the end of a busy day of β€œdoing”. It moves your awareness away from the external and helps you develop greater internal wisdom. It is also a wonderful pose to start your day, as it cultivates humility, receptivity and the awareness that your relationship with your internal world is reflected back to you through your relationship with your external world. Your every thought, feeling and idea affect the way you experience the moment. This relationship sets the arc and trajectory of your life.

Please remember that the goal of this exercise, and all yoga practice, is not to β€œwork hard” but to deepen your relationship with the true source of power, far beyond your ego and will. Connect to your breath, your body and your spine, and witness whatever may arise. Release all tendency to have an agenda. Practice presence. In this allowing, you create a forum within yourself for tremendous healing and transformation.


  • Find a quiet and relaxed environment where you can lie on the floor on a towel or yoga mat.
  • Begin with Savasana, bringing your breath awareness from the crown of your head through your spine, your arms and hands and right down to your toes. Feel your whole body breathing.
  • Then bend your knees, feet flat on the floor, hip width apart, and practice The Breathing Wave.
  • Once you sense ease through your spine, roll onto your right side, use your left hand to press and roll yourself up into a sitting position.
  • Extend your legs, keeping your knees bent, so that your feet, which are hip width apart, continue to touch the ground. Place your arms between your bent legs and take hold of the tops of your feet.
  • While maintaining this position, not yet rolling forward, inhale. Feel your belly rise. Sense your tailbone tilt ever so slightly back, opening up your pelvic floor.
  • Exhale; your belly moves inward toward your spine. Your tailbone tilts slightly forward. Sense the energy connection you have with the ground.
  • Inhale; draw in life force through your crown, as though you have a whale spout, and down your spine. Feel that your spine is a tube of breath.
  • Exhale; release energy up toward the crown of your head, and allow yourself to feel the downward flow of energy through your pelvis, legs and feet. Allow the energy to move effortlessly, with attention, but without pushing.
  • While breathing in this manner, draw your awareness to the top of your spine at the base of your skull, behind your throat. Allow your head to gently roll forward, feeling its weight as it responds to gravity.
  • Allow yourself to roll forward and down, vertebra by vertebra. Do so slowly and mindfully. Notice what your spine feels like.
  • Inhale; draw energy down your spine. Exhale; feel the energy move up and down your spine. Feel your relationship to your breath, the spaciousness within every cell in your body, your spine through which life force travels, and the loving support from the ground.
  • Allow yourself to roll as far forward as is comfortable, keeping your feet flat on the ground, and your knees loosely by your shoulders. Never go past 80 percent of your maximum.
  • Wherever you arrive, remain there for several breaths. Allow your breath to become like an internal massage that permeates your body/being.
  • Breathe in; draw your awareness more deeply down your spine, into the pelvic floor.
  • Breathe out; feel two-way moving energy, so that the crown of the head and tailbone moves away from each other on the exhale. Enjoy the expansion and ease that comes from your breathing.
  • Should you notice tense areas, do not try to get rid of them. Instead, bring attention to them and allow your breath awareness to permeate the areas. Feel the spacious quality of the breath brings healing, loving, acceptance and wisdom there.
  • Should thoughts or emotions come, watch them pass by without getting tied up in their stories. Each breath is unique. Your breath awareness will guide you to where you need to be.
  • Listen for when your body has had enough. Just as you listened for the flow into the pose, listen to the natural, effortless impulse to move out from the pose. You are not trying to get away from anything. One moment simply moves to the next. When you feel that impulse, gently roll back up, vertebra by vertebra. Your head is the last to rise.
  • Inhale as you hug your knees into your chest. Exhale as you sit tall, as though you were breathing out through the crown of your head. Let it float toward the sky as your tailbone releases toward the Earth. Your chin is slightly tucked into your chest.
  • After a few breath cycles lengthening your spine, bring your breathing back to what feels normal for you.

Parvati is an award-winning singer, composer, producer, yogini, author, and Founder and CEO of the international charity Parvati Foundation. Her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).

Enjoy the YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine column archive here.