Ardha Pincha Mayurasana – Dolphin Pose

Jul/31/2021 / by KT Hall
dolphin yoga pose
Image credits: Shutterstock

While a complex pose, the dolphin yoga pose is an energy-boosting base pose. It can give strength to your upper body and is a great way to open the shoulders.

Exploring Dolphin Pose Yoga

Dolphin yoga or Catur Svanasana is a challenging downward-facing dog pose. Only, your forearms bear the weight of your upper body instead of your hands. It does take time to adjust to as you have to get used to being partially upside down.

You also need flexibility, strength and patience to open the upper body and hold this pose. Hence you must prepare your mind and body. However, this asana can help beginners who want to increase their arm and shoulder strength.

Dolphin yoga pose is similar to downward-facing dog where your forearms are extended on the ground. Offering a boost of energy, this base pose is a liberating inversion posture that provides emotional, mental and physical benefits. The dolphin yoga pose is included in Vinyasa Flow yoga and Hatha Yoga as a preparatory pose. Aside from strengthening the arms and shoulders, it helps students explore awareness and alignment.

The Benefits of Dolphin Pose

Most beginners can try this but some may find it challenging if they don’t have the upper body strength or if their leg muscles are weak. Because dolphin yoga is a semi-inverted asana, use it to build strength in the shoulders, upper back, triceps, biceps, pelvis and hips.

Dolphin yoga pose can serve as a warm-up for those that want to proceed to more advanced level poses like Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance). It’s also beneficial for those who want to increase their range of motion and learn how to balance their weight on their upper body. Experienced yogis and yoginis may use dolphin yoga pose before raising their legs above their heads and doing a headstand or handstand. However, it’s not best for anyone that’s had a stroke, suffers high blood pressure or has a shoulder injury or glaucoma.

Tips on Holding the Pose

With Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, try to hold this pose for 30 seconds and work your way up to greater lengths of time. Try not to hold your breath in this asana as you’ll want to exhale when you kneel back onto the ground.

To control your breathing, keep it natural, but once in the asana start to pull your stomach muscles in. Then relax your abdomen when you exhale. This reduces the pressure you feel in trying to hold your stomach muscles. It also helps you to better focus on your core.

For Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, exhale with your neck relaxed as you lower your chest. Then inhale as you let your leg and shoulder muscles go and loosen your body. Exhale again to get deeper into the asana as you engage your core and your lower and upper body.

Breathe normally in the pose and hold it as long as it’s comfortable for you. Inhale when you look up and let your muscles go lax, then exhale again as you bring your knees down for Balasana (resting pose).

In the dolphin yoga pose, once you are in position, your head should hang down freely while you hold this asana for 10-15 breaths. During this dolphin hold, you can feel your spine and shoulders stretching. You’re grounding your feet and connecting to the floor but also having your hips and spine ascending upward. Having your kneecaps pulled up and pushing the knees back can help you maintain your spine’s length. Hence, you’re creating a stable posture that’s also expansive.

Why Dolphin Pose Looks Harder Than Downward Dog

Beginners may find dolphin pose harder than downward dog. The difference here is that the dolphin pose uses the external shoulders. Hence, you’re building the latissimus dorsi and strengthening your back and core. Downward dog requires strength in the legs, upper back and shoulders but the key is to keep the shoulders firm and not stretch them back too far. That way, while you’re in downward dog, you can roll the shoulders to realign them.

A concern for some is not moving their elbows with the dolphin pose as this can cause more pressure on your upper back and neck if the upper arm bones collapse. You may need a strap or block to initially keep the arms parallel.

An additional point to note is that you don’t want to push out your chest or armpits toward the legs by overstretching. The idea is to lengthen your upper body and core in equal angles. To achieve this, keep your triceps tight to avoid sinking into your arms. Use a mirror to help or have someone record your dolphin pose posture so you can make corrections.

This asana is a bit of a juxtaposition as it requires ease and steadiness. It takes time but you can find your center by keeping your attention on maintaining flexibility and strength.


What is Dolphin Pose Good For?

Dolphin pose helps expand awareness and alignment while also providing an energy boost. It can build muscles in the upper back, shoulders, arms, triceps, biceps, pelvis and hips.

Is Dolphin Pose Harder Than Downward Dog?

Beginners might find Dolphin pose challenging or harder than downward dog because dolphin pose uses the external shoulders. Hence, it takes time to build up the latissimus dorsi. Downward dog on the other hand, uses muscles in the legs, upper back and shoulders. 

How Long Should You Hold Dolphin Pose?

Try holding this asana for 30-seconds and work gradually toward increasing the time. Keep your breathing natural but in the pose pull your stomach muscles in. Begin to relax your abdomen when you exhale to alleviate pressure from holding your abdomen.

What is Dolphin Pose in Yoga?

Dolphin yoga or Catur Svanasana is a downward-facing dog pose. However, the forearms bear the bulk of your weight instead of the hands. Beginners might find it challenging as you’re semi-inverted and have to gradually build upper body strength and stronger leg muscles to hold this asana.

What is a Dolphin Hold?

When you’re in dolphin pose, you hold the position and your head is hanging down freely. This is the Dolphin hold where you want to hold for about 10-15 breaths. During this time it’s a good spinal and shoulder stretch. Ground your feet to the floor and keep your hips and spine up. Push your knees back slightly to maintain the length of your spine.


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