January 5th, 2009 - Yoga, for Turtles


There are poses in some of the various disciplines of yoga known as "Turtle Poses."
The Hatha pose above, to me at least, exemplifies the symbolism to the turtle form better than many of the others, with which I find myself studying the pose for an inordinate amount of time and commenting, aloud or to myself, "Wha...?"
Whether or not the reptiles we know as turtles do yoga, has yet to be proved conclusively. 
I feel that if any of the animal kingdoms would do yoga, the turtles, with their extremely subtle evolutionary changes and their humble, meditative lifestyles would be an obvious shoe-in for the yogis. 
Sure, there are the cows with their ruminating. (ruminate comes from the Latin: ruminare, which seems to be one of those Latin pun-words, it means literally "to chew the cud" or "to turn over in the throat" with somehow, someone, simultaneously attaching the meaning, "to ponder" or "to turn over and over with the mind" as well. Kind of a joke on their own original meaning. Some Latin dictionary editor must of had a sense of humor because I find a good deal of this in Latin...)
So cows purportedly contemplate a lot, but you never really see them doing the disciplined yoga to go with it. Well, maybe long-held standing poses, but nothing too challenging. 
Then there are the sloths, whose zen-like concentration allows them to remain hanging in jungle trees for almost five days without defecating, and long enough for their thick fur to grow layers of green algae which adds to their natural camouflage. Still, this is not what I would call yoga, and I do not recall any yoga positions called, "The Sloth", in any of the many yoga disciplines that I'm familiar with.
Our Painted Turtle "Captain Jackie", however, seems to practice both the meditative and physical attributes of yoga conditioning, though not through the above "turtle pose," at least as we know it.


She has been documented with her eyes closed and with one or both back legs extended while in a basking position, and on rare occurrences, with three legs extended in a full bask, partial bask, or "dead-man's float" water-supported yoga session (presumably when she has much on her mind and world-size problems to contemplate).


I felt a bit guilty as I obviously made her feel self-conscious while I snapped these pictures. 
I didn't ask for a model release ahead of time, and she was obviously keeping a squinty eye on me. 
I thought I could just quickly get her as she was concentrating with her third eyelid down, but I should have realized that when you're in the "Zen," nothing gets past you, even though you might not acknowledge it. I can humbly and honorably state: my intentions were pure, my only fault was that in my rush for a candid shot I became overzealous, I admit it. I wanted to get the "real deal." 
Now I guess I have to renegotiate after the fact, never a good thing. 
You young and aspiring photographers out there - take heed... even if it's a relative or a model that you've worked with before, make sure you get that release BEFORE you start the shoot.
Okay, end of lecture.
I've spoken to other naturalists about this "turtle posing," and believe me, wild theories abound. The most popular of which points out that these semi-aquatic turtles must stick their limbs out while basking out of water so that the soft folds of their under-skin have a chance to dry, lest they harvest bacteria that can develop forms of shell-rot and what some have come to call the reptile equivalent of "jock-itch."
Well, let the theorists wave their flags. You and I and the turtle all know the true meditative and holistic advantages that are gained through practicing; "The Turtle Pose."

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