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Dolphin Pose In Yoga: Benefits, Technique, and Variations

dolphin pose in yoga

In this article: Discover more about dolphin pose in yoga and its benefits!

This article was reviewed by a certified yoga teacher.

Dolphin Pose, or Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, is a foundational yoga asana that builds strength, flexibility, and balance.

It prepares the body for more advanced inversions and backbends, while offering a lot of physical and mental benefits.

Understanding the correct technique for practicing Dolphin Pose is essential for reaping its full benefits and making sure your practice is safe and effective. 

In this comprehensive guide, we break down the proper technique for executing the Dolphin Pose, identify common mistakes, explore the many benefits and discuss contraindications for the pose.

Read on to learn how to approach Dolphin Pose with confidence, knowledge, and mindfulness!

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Proper Technique for Dolphin Pose

Executing Dolphin Pose with precise technique is essential to maximize its benefits and prevent potential injuries. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure your alignment and engagement are correct:

Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position. Your wrists should be aligned directly beneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

Direct your pointer finger to the front of the room, allowing a gentle external rotation in the arms. 

Next, lower your forearms to the mat. Ensure they are parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart.

Tuck your toes and lift your hips, gradually straightening your legs. Keep lifting your hips toward the ceiling, drawing the fronts of your thighs to the back of the room.

Ensure your head is between your upper arms and your ears are in line with your upper arms. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your neck long.

Keep a nice and steady breath throughout. Engage your core and leg muscles, and press your heels gently toward the mat.

You can hold the pose for 20-30 seconds initially and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable and strong in the position.

With persistence and dedication, the pose will eventually become easier and you’ll be able to hold it longer.

To release, gently lower your knees to the mat and rest in Child’s Pose.

What you need to remember:

  • Keep your forearms and palms firmly pressed into the mat. Imagine you are pressing the earth away with your forearms. 
  • Ensure your back is straight and your hips are lifted high.
  • Breathe steadily and evenly throughout the pose. It’s easy to forget and hold your breath!

Common Mistakes and How to Correct Them

Awareness of common mistakes and their corrections is essential for a safe and effective practice of Dolphin Pose.

Below are some common mistakes, reasons why they happen, and guidance on how to correct them:

Improper Forearm Alignment

  • Why It Happens: Lack of awareness or weakness in the shoulder muscles can lead to the forearms splaying outward.
  • How to Correct: Actively press your forearms and palms into the mat, keeping them parallel and shoulder-width apart to maintain alignment and stability.

Arching the Back

  • Why It Happens: Unengaged core muscles or lack of attention to body alignment can lead to an arched back. Some of us are more naturally inclined to overarch the back in certain yoga poses.
  • How to Correct: Engage your core muscles and lengthen your spine. Visualize your hips moving up and back to prevent arching of the back.

Dropping the Head

  • Why It Happens: Neglecting alignment and forgetting to engage neck muscles can cause the head to hang down.
  • How to Correct: Keep your head actively lifted and aligned between your upper arms, ensuring your ears are in line with your upper arms.

Overlooking Breath

  • Why It Happens: Concentration while holding the pose can lead to forgetting to breathe steadily. This is an extremely common mistake in virtually all yoga poses – don’t worry if you catch yourself doing it too.
  • How to Correct: Remember to take slow, deep, and even breaths throughout the pose to help maintain balance and relaxation.

Overstraining the Legs

  • Why It Happens: Practitioners who are trying to deepen the pose may forcefully press the heels down, and overstrain the legs.
  • How to Correct: Allow a slight, comfortable bend in the knees.

By understanding why these mistakes occur and implementing the corrections, your Dolphin Pose practice will be more beneficial, effective, and enjoyable.

dolphin pose

Credit: Fizkes/iStockPhoto

Dolphin Pose Benefits

Including Dolphin Pose in your practice offers a myriad of holistic benefits. Here’s an expanded look at the various advantages:

Strengthens the Upper Body

Dolphin Pose is excellent for building strength in the arms, shoulders, and chest. It provides a solid foundation for more advanced poses.

This reinforcement of upper body strength can significantly improve daily functional activities and other athletic performances.

It can also make tasks that require upper body force more manageable.

Enhances Core Stability

The engagement of core muscles in this pose can help improve your balance, posture, and overall functional strength.

Core stability is important for performing everyday tasks and improving athletic ability.

It also contributes to injury prevention by supporting the spine and maintaining proper alignment.

Improves Flexibility

Regular practice of Dolphin Pose stretches and lengthens the hamstrings, calves, and arches. It promotes flexibility and mobility.

Being more flexible can improve your range of motion, reduce muscle stiffness, and a decrease the risk of injury in various physical activities.

Stimulates the Nervous System

The inversion aspect of Dolphin Pose enhances blood flow to the brain. It gives you an opportunity to concentrate on the pose and promotes mental clarity.

This boost in cerebral circulation can enhance cognitive function, improve memory, and reduce the risk of neurological disorders.

Relieves Stress

Dolphin Pose serves is an effective stress-reliever, promoting relaxation and mental calmness.

Regular practice can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression as well.

Prepares for Advanced Poses

It lays a robust foundation for practicing advanced inversions and backbends by helping you build the necessary strength.

Mastering Dolphin Pose will give you the confidence and physical readiness to explore more complex yoga asanas and enhance your yoga journey.

Aids in Digestion

The forward bend and core engagement in Dolphin Pose help in massaging the internal organs, improving digestion and improving organ function.

Improved digestive function contributes to better nutrient absorption, gut health, and a more efficient metabolic rate.

As you can see Dolphin Pose has many benefits and is an invaluable addition to your yoga practice!

Variations of Dolphin Pose

The classic form of Dolphin Pose offers numerous variations that allow practitioners to explore and deepen their practice further. But trying its variations can also be really beneficial.

Here’s a refined breakdown of the variations, their benefits and how to perform each:

Dolphin Pose on the Fingertips

  • How to Perform: Begin in Dolphin Pose and then elevate your palms while keeping the forearms on the mat, balancing on your fingertips.
  • Benefits: This variation provides an intensified stretch in the forearms and shoulders and enhances wrist and finger strength.
  • Muscles Worked: Forearms, wrists, and shoulder muscles.

Dolphin Pose with Leg Lift

  • How to Perform: From the standard Dolphin Pose, extend one leg upwards towards the ceiling. Make sure it remains straight and active.
  • Benefits: Strengthens the legs, improves balance, and enhances focus and stability.
  • Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core muscles.

Dynamic Dolphin

  • How to Perform: In Dolphin Pose, inhale as you lower your body towards the mat, and exhale as you push back up to the starting position.
  • Benefits: Enhances muscular endurance, arm and shoulder strength, and improves body awareness.
  • Muscles Worked: Arms, shoulders, and core muscles.

Dolphin Plank Pose

  • How to Perform: From Dolphin Pose, walk your feet backward, creating a straight line from head to heels, maintaining support on your forearms.
  • Benefits: Strengthens the entire body, enhances core engagement, and boosts stability and endurance.
  • Muscles Worked: Core, shoulders, and leg muscles.

Dolphin Pose with a Block

  • How to Perform: Position a yoga block between your hands while in Dolphin Pose to help maintain the distance and alignment of your arms.
  • Benefits: Aids in maintaining proper forearm alignment and provides additional stability and support.
  • Muscles Worked: Shoulders and forearm muscles

By understanding and incorporating these variations into your practice, you can target different muscle groups, meet personal fitness goals, and keep your routine engaging and challenging.

woman doing dolphin pose yoga

Credit: dusanpetkovic/iStockPhoto

Contraindications for Dolphin Pose

Practicing Dolphin Pose safely is essential for reaping its many benefits. While it’s a highly beneficial pose for many, there are certain contraindications to consider.

Shoulder Injuries

If you have a current or recent shoulder injury, it’s crucial to avoid the Dolphin Pose as it places significant pressure on the shoulders.

The position of the arms and shoulders in this pose could exacerbate existing injuries and delay the healing process.

Before resuming or starting any yoga posture that involves shoulder strength and flexibility, make sure to get clearance from a healthcare professional to prevent further damage.

Neck Issues

Yogis with neck problems should proceed with caution. Dolphin Pose requires the neck to be in a neutral, relaxed position, but if performed incorrectly, it can cause strain.

If you have a neck condition, it’s wise to perform this pose under the supervision of an experienced yoga instructor who can guide you in maintaining proper neck alignment and offer alternatives if needed.

High Blood Pressure

This pose is an inversion, which means that the head is below the heart, and this can be problematic for practitioners with high blood pressure.

Inversions can increase pressure in the head and eyes, which may not be suitable for everyone.

It’s essential to consult your doctor before incorporating inversions into your practice if you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular concerns.


Pregnant women should exercise caution while practicing Dolphin Pose, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

The forward-leaning nature of the pose may place additional strain on the abdominal muscles and could potentially cause discomfort or other issues.

If you are pregnant, always consult your healthcare provider and a knowledgeable yoga instructor to explore safe yoga practices during this special time.

Wrist Concerns

Though Dolphin Pose is generally more wrist-friendly than similar postures like Downward Dog, it still requires wrist strength and stability.

If you’re dealing with wrist issues, make sure that your weight is evenly distributed through your forearms to minimize risks of strain.

Consider using props or modifications to offer additional support and stability.

Remember that the effectiveness and safety of your yoga practice depends on your body’s needs and limitations.

It’s also important to communicate with healthcare professionals and qualified yoga instructors for guidance.

Advanced Poses Prepared by Dolphin Pose

By strengthening the shoulders, arms and core, Dolphin Pose effectively prepares the body for the following advanced poses:

Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)

Dolphin Pose is a preparatory pose for Forearm Stand as it builds strength in the shoulders and forearms.

It also helps practitioners gain stability and balance, which is needed for this inversion.

Headstand (Sirsasana)

Practicing Dolphin Pose aids in developing the necessary upper body strength for performing a headstand safely and effectively.

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

The core engagement and arm strength built with Dolphin Pose are essential for mastering arm balance and poses like Crow Pose.

Bottom line

Dolphin Pose is a remarkably versatile asana that offers a multitude of physical and mental benefits.

Including this pose in your regular yoga practice can help you enhance your physical and mental capabilities but also pave the path for a seamless transition into more advanced yoga asanas.

Do you practice Dolphin Pose in yoga? Let me know in the comments below!

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