What is the Dolphin Pose?
Known as Ardha Pincha Mayurasana in Sanskrit, the Dolphin pose embodies the many beautiful virtues of a dolphin. It opens up, stretches and strengthens the upper body, improves flexibility in the hamstrings and is a great preparatory pose for intense inversions, like headstand. With practice, you’ll experience a greater range of motion in your spine and shoulders, as well as build strength in the arms and core. Your hips and thighs will get more flexible and toned as well.
In the beginning you might find that it is difficult to put weight on your forearms or you are not able to place your heel on the mat. But with practice, this will be possible to do and you’ll experience great progress. While trying the posture, focus on the breath and be aware of sensations in the arms, legs and back.
Position type: Inversion
Posture type: Standing
Ideal for: Arm and Legs flexibility
Targets: Arms, shoulders, back and hips
Pose level: Intermediate
How can you Prepare for the Dolphin Pose
With better hip flexibility, you will be able to achieve the posture easily. The pose will be more comfortable to do and you will be able to hold it longer. To improve hip flexibility, practice the triangle pose, lunges and simple hip openers like garland pose, cobbler’s pose and pigeon pose regularly.
Since half your weight comes on the arm and shoulders, improving arm strength is important. Practice poses like the cow face pose (Gomukhasana), puppy pose, thread the needle, seated eagle pose, downward facing dog, and push ups regularly.
Developing strength will help you hold the posture for longer. Regular practice of a few postures like the triangle pose, the warrior series, boat pose and plank are good for this.
How to Practice Dolphin Pose
How to get into the posture
- Come onto your fours. Place the knees directly below your hips and your forearms on the floor with your shoulders directly above your wrists. Press the palms and forearms firmly into the floor.
- Inhale and gently exhale as you slowly lift the knees up and away from the floor. If the heels are lifted up from the floor initially, that’s alright. With practice you will be able to place it completely on the mat.
- Lift the sit bones and pull them towards the ceiling. Continue pressing the forearms into the mat. Keep the shoulder blades firm.
- Straighten the knees if you can, but ensure your back remains straight and does not round.
- Stay here for a few deep breaths.
Getting out of the posture
- To come out of the posture, inhale and slowly bring your knees onto the mat.
- Relax the arms and stretch them forward, going into the child’s pose for a few minutes.
What are the Benefits of Practicing Dolphin Pose?
The pose improves blood circulation to the brain, immediately calming the mind, relieving stress and mild depression. It stretches and brings flexibility to the shoulders, spine, hamstrings, calves and arches. It also strengthens the arms and legs. It is beneficial for women going through menopause as it helps relieve common symptoms, and menstrual discomfort. It improves digestion and is therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet and sciatica. It is also beneficial for headaches, back pain and fatigue.
What are the Contraindications of Dolphin Pose?
Anyone with a recent or existing shoulder back, arm or neck injury should avoid the dolphin pose. Those with high blood pressure or infections in the eye or inner ear should also avoid the pose. It’s best to practice live with an experienced teacher and listen to your body.
Counter Poses of the Dolphin Pose
Following the Dolphin pose, you can practice the Locust pose (Salabhasana), Child’s pose (Balasana), and even Downward Facing Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
Dolphin Pose Variations
- As a beginner, you can practice with wall support from a standing position by using the wall. Stand two feet or more from the wall. Hinge at your hips to come into a half forward fold. Reach forward with your arms and place your hands and forearms on the wall.
- You can also use props like a strap. Create a loop with a strap and wrap it around your upper arms. Adjust it until you can press outward against the tension of the strap without your arms going wider than your shoulders. Place a block on the mat in front of you. Your hands will come on each side of the block and your head will rest on the block.
- Once you are ready, you can attempt the Pincha Mayurasana with guidance from a teacher. We advise doing this in a live session so you can practice correctly and avoid injuries.
Advice for Beginners for the Dolphin Pose
- Practice opening up the shoulders and warm ups for the arms before attempting the pose.
- You can open up the shoulders by lifting the elbows and pressing the wrists firmly into the floor. You can also press your palms together with your forearms on the floor. Continue pressing your palms, or interlock the fingers together.
- If your upper back is rounding when you straighten your legs, bend the knees a little until you are flexible enough to practice without any curving of the spine.
Practice tips for the Dolphin Pose
- To deepen the pose, you can light from the hips to distribute weight more evenly between the feet and elbows.
- Don’t let the chest sink towards the floor. Instead, draw the ribs so you can maintain a straight back.
- Avoid walking your feet closer to your hands to place your heels on the floor.
Shvasa tips for Dolphin Pose
- It is completely fine to lift the heels up initially. Don’t be in a rush to push them into the ground. Focus more on maintaining a straight back.
- Always take guidance for an experienced and certified teacher to practice safely.