Sleeping Tortoise Pose Steps + Modifications

Sleeping Tortoise Pose by Krista Shirley

According to Yoga Journal, the tortoise is an introverted animal that often retreats into its shell when frightened. It should come as no surprise, then, that yogis who perform sleeping tortoise often experience a sense of inward reflection, and may feel quiet and centered. To maintain safety when attempting sleeping tortoise, Yoga Journal recommends a warm-up composed of several deep breaths, and a series of preparatory poses.

Performing the Pose

Follow these steps for optimal results when it comes to performing sleeping tortoise pose:

  1. Sit on a yoga mat in a cross-legged position.
  2. Grasp your right foot with your left hand, and pull it into your chest.
  3. Thread your right arm under your right leg, and place your right hand on the ground near your right hip.
  4. While still holding your right foot with your left hand, slowly "walk" your right leg up your right arm, until you can weave your head in front of your foot.
  5. Place your left hand on the ground. Grasp your left foot with your right hand, and repeat the process outlined in steps 3-5.
  6. Bring both shoulders between your legs. Reposition both hands on the ground, so they are a shoulders'-width distance apart.
  7. Bend your elbows, using your arms to slowly lower your forehead to the ground.
  8. Move both arms around the outside of your legs, and clasp hands behind your lower back.
  9. Hold the position and breathe deeply.
  10. Exit the pose by reversing the directions described above.


Sleeping tortoise is an advanced forward bend that may be appropriate only for experienced yogis who have a great deal of hip and back flexibility. Individuals who suffer from back pain or injury should avoid clasping their hands together behind their lower back, recommends Yoga International, and instead may prefer to modify the pose by extending their arms out to the side, forming a "T."

Similarly, individuals who are new to the pose may want to consider attempting to position a single foot behind their head, one leg at a time, before performing the more advanced version of sleeping tortoise.

Trying Sleeping Tortoise

Sleeping tortoise is a challenging forward bend that, when done properly, can provide a number of important benefits. In fact, Yoga International reports that tortoise pose can tone the spine, activate abdominal muscles, and promotes improvements in energy and sleep.

For optimal results when performing the pose, be sure to follow directions carefully. Those who are new to this advanced pose may want to seek assistance from a certified yoga teacher.

Sleeping Tortoise Pose Steps + Modifications