Going upside down can feel very freeing, whether for a few breaths in a pose like Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) or several minutes in a pose like Sirsasana (Headstand).
Inversions are suitable for your body, mind, and emotions in many ways. But it would help if you also were strong, flexible, and sure of yourself when you turn your normal relationship to gravity upside down. This can take time to learn. If your body or mind isn’t ready for a full inversion, you should try the Dolphin pose, which has many benefits.
The Dolphin Pose (Catur Svanasana) is a deeper and more challenging version of the Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Instead of the hands, the forearms carry the body’s weight in this pose. It stretches and strengthens the upper body, so it’s a great way to get ready for inversions or a good alternative if you’re not ready to put your legs above your head. With more practice, your spine and shoulders can move more freely, and your arms and core will strengthen. You’ll also get used to bearing weight on your hands, arms, and upper body.
In other words, if you make friends with Dolphin, you’ll open the door to a world where you can do cartwheels again like you did when you were a kid.
Steps for Dolphin Pose:
From “Child’s Pose”:
- Start taking a few deep breaths while in the Child Pose (Balasana).
Raise your head and chest and get into the Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana) with your spine straight and your hips on your heels.
- Measure the elbows by putting your right palm on the left elbow and your left palm on the right elbow. Bring the arms down to the mat, so they are not too close to the knees.
- Open your arms and lock your fingers together to make a tripod.
Now, press your forearms into the mat and, without letting go of your elbows and palms, pull your abs in and lift your hips.
Bring your knees up to your toes.
As much as possible, the knees should be kept straight.
If your hamstrings are tight, you can keep your knees slightly bent.
- Unlock your palms and move your forearms so they parallel the mat and each other.
The head and backbone are on the same line.
- The head is even with the tops of the arms, and the spine stays straight.
Breathe steadily and stay in the pose for at least six breaths or more.
Pull the kneecaps up toward the thighs to keep the legs active while you hold the position.
- Strongly engage the core to stabilize, pressing the heels and elbows toward the mat (the heels don’t have to touch the floor) and keeping the shoulders away from the ears.
The upper arms are also kept away from the ears to keep the neck and shoulders from getting too tight.
- To get out of the pose, let your knees fall back to the floor as you exhale and rest in the Child Pose.
From Table Top Pose:
- Get into the Table Top Pose by getting down on all fours (two palms and two knees).
The hands should be about shoulder-width apart, and the knees should be about hip-width apart. Shoulders and palms are also lined up, which is another essential thing to notice.
The knees and hips are in the same line.
- Place your elbows on the mat one at a time so that your shoulders align with your elbows.
- Curl the toes in, press the palms and elbows of the forearms into the mat, lift the knees and straighten the legs as you breathe in. The head is in the same place as the tops of the arms.
Gaze downward. Bring the hips up and push the heels down at the same time.
- Stay in the pose for between 5 and 8 breaths.
There’s no need for the heels to touch the floor. Don’t try to force it.
- To get out of the position, drop the knees to the mat and move the hips back toward and onto the heels in the Child Pose. Take a few deep breaths while in this pose.
Contraindications for Dolphin Pose:
- Injury: If you have or have had a shoulder, back, arm, or neck injury or surgery, you should not do the Dolphin Pose. Also, a person with high blood pressure should talk to a trained yoga therapist before deciding whether or not to try this pose. Students with eye or ear infections are also told to stay away from this pose because the downward flow of blood could make their symptoms worse.
- Illness and physical strength: People with weak knees, a bad lower back, or very tight hamstrings should keep their knees bent or down on the mat. A wider stance with the knees will also help the weak lower back stay neutral during the Dolphin Pose. Students with stiff neck or neck pain can keep a pillow or blanket under their heads to relieve neck pain while building strength in this pose.
- Students should be aware of and know how to coordinate their breaths when going into and coming out of the flow. Because this is an inverted yoga pose, students may feel like they can’t breathe if they don’t know how.
Dolphin Pose Modifications:
- Use a blanket to support the feet if they don’t stay flat on the floor.
- Use blankets or extra yoga mats to support the elbows.
- Use a cushion or yoga block to support the head if the pose feels heavy on the shoulders.
- Use the wall to support the feet or the forearms facing the wall.
- Bend the knees if the pose is too hard on the lower back.
Dolphin Pose Benefits:
- Stretches strengthen and lengthen:
The shoulders, arms, upper back, and legs are all strengthened and stretched in Dolphin Pose (especially hamstrings). It is an excellent pose for strengthening your forearms, which requires more advanced arm balances and inversions.
Also, doing this pose regularly can keep students from getting hurt because it focuses on making the spine, hamstrings, calves, and arches stronger, more stable, and more flexible.
- Chest, diaphragm, and breath:
Once the chest and diaphragm are engaged, students should focus on their breathing. When you do this pose, your chest is wide and broad.
The muscles around the chest work hard, and they can get stronger if the pose is held for longer and done often. The chest opening gives the lungs a chance to breathe deeper, another benefit of this pose.
- Awareness and focus:
The Dolphin Pose makes you more aware of your core (contraction of pelvic muscles), hamstrings, shoulders, and spinal alignment. This is a good way to prepare for many advanced inversion yoga poses.
- Alignment and posture:
By practicing the Dolphin Pose, students can work on improving the alignment of their spines. This is especially helpful for people who don’t move much or spend a lot of time in front of a screen.
If you press your palms with your forearms on the floor while in the pose, you can open your shoulders even more.
- Energizing, relieving stress, and relaxing:
Because the head is below the heart in the Dolphin Pose, students can feel more blood flow to the brain, which can be mentally and physically stressful.
It is known to help people feel less tired and has many benefits for mental health.
Students may feel better about mild depression and insomnia, have a better memory, focus better, become more aware, stimulate their nervous system, and feel less stressed and anxious.
- Stimulation and Organs:
The Dolphin Pose helps speed up the function of abdominal muscles and organs like the liver, intestines, kidneys, etc., which improves the body’s metabolism and digestion. It can also be a great addition to yoga sequences that help eliminate belly fat.
- Therapeutic, Healing, and Illnesses:
In this position, the heart is above the head, so the blood flow is reversed. This gives the brain and other important organs fresh blood and oxygen.
This helps the body work better and stay healthier as a whole.
On the therapeutic side, the Dolphin Pose is known to help people sleep better when they do it regularly. It allows students who have trouble sleeping to calm the brain and relieve stress and mild depression.
Dolphin Pose is a great addition to yoga sequences for kids. Children like to learn more about the animals they like, so telling them interesting facts about the dolphin or making up a story about it can make the posing fun.
Women going through menopause can also benefit from this pose because it helps keep their energy levels stable. Some women may relieve the hot flashes they get before or during menopause.
This pose is a safe inversion for pregnant women, but it needs to be done with the help of a trained yoga teacher. It can help them feel less tense in their shoulders and neck and more awake and alert.
- Preparatory Pose:
Doing the Dolphin Pose regularly makes your core, arms, shoulders, and back muscles stronger and more aware. Inversions in advanced yoga pose like Sirsasana (Headstand Pose), Pincha Mayurasana, and Scorpion Pose use these muscles robustly (Forearm Stand).
The dolphin pose is a great way to prepare for and move into other poses because it helps you keep your balance.
How to prepare for Dolphin Pose?
As a warm-up for forearm balance and headstands, try moving your feet closer to your hands and raising one leg at a time.
How can Dolphin Pose be made more interesting?
With your fingers interlaced, move your chin closer to your hands. Then, push through your forearms to raise yourself back up, which adds additional difficulty.