Dolphin Yoga Pose: How To Do & Benefits

Any inversion pose in yoga has a myriad of benefits and finally mastering that tricky posture always feels fantastic. Getting into such postures does require a good base level of flexibility and strength but, most importantly, confidence in your body to be able to find an inverted posture safely.

Dolphin is therefore a great stepping stone into the world of fully inverted postures. It requires flexibility and strength to hold this pose and will help you master arm positioning for more complex inversions.

As your body position in Dolphin is similar to other inversions (like Sirsana headstands) you can use this posture to build up confidence and get used to the feeling of being inverted.

In essence, Dolphin pose is Downward-Facing Dog but the upper body is supported on your forearms rather than your hands, great for identifying weaker points of your body but helping you to gently develop them,

Benefits of Dolphin Pose

When done correctly, this pose can have a fantastic impact on your health, stretching out your hamstrings, calves, and tendons in the foot. The positioning of the arms makes Dolphin great for opening up the chest and helping to improve posture.

Continued practice of this pose will greatly improve your flexibility and strength in the arms, but will also give your legs a deeper stretch than Downward-Facing Dog. 

You need to keep your core engaged during Dolphin for stability, meaning you will be giving your abdominal wall a workout that will help to improve overall tone. You may also find that your arms become more toned the more regularly you engage with this pose in yoga practice.

Dolphin is a great workout for these reasons, and by default will help prevent osteoporosis. Aside from health benefits, including Dolphin Pose in your yoga practice will help you prepare for other, more intense inversions as you develop your yogic flows.

This pose is not suitable for those who have suffered from shoulder injuries as a lot of your weight will be supported at the shoulder joints. This pose is to be avoided by those who have high blood pressure, have had a stroke recently, or if you have glaucoma as the increased pressure in the head from being held upside down will have adverse effects on your health.

How To Do Dolphin Pose

A great place for beginners to start is the basic Dolphin variation. 

Place your arms on your mat in a classic Headstand position – elbows on the mat, shoulder-width apart with your fingers interlaced in the middle so your arms form two sides of a triangle – but keep your head off the floor.

You need to make sure that whichever pinkie finger is closest to the ground is not part of the interlaced fingers, instead slip it out to rest against the opposite palm. This will ensure that your base is strong as your hands and wrists can lay down flat.

You need to be sure that you have a strong foundation at this point – press down into the mat with your arms and hands. Applying downward pressure with your arms will make it easier for you to lift up and constantly thinking of arm activation will bring your shoulders away from the floor to help maintain a good neck posture.

When you have found a solid base position, kneel in the middle of the mat – this is the safest way to enter Dolphin pose. Keep your gaze on your feet and squeeze to lift up, pressing your hips away as you would do for Downward-Facing Dog. Keep active in the arms and push away from the mat for support. 

Keep extending until your legs are straight and your heels are reaching towards the mat. Feel free to gently pedal the feet to stay engaged with this pose but let the head hang so there is no tension around your neck.

Hold this pose for 10-15 breaths and then gently release to lower your knees back to a kneeling position on the floor and sit back on your heels. If you are tight in the hamstrings you may find that your spine rounds so be sure to work on straightening it – if needed you can bend your knees slightly.

Those who find they are very flexible in their practice may find that their ribs fall out of line and point towards the floor. If this is the case, you need to soften your posture and work on visualizing the lower ribs moving back into the body for better alignment.

Dolphin Variation

For the first variation of Dolphin you need to find the pose but adopt a different arm position – this will make the pose slightly more challenging to find and is a great progression for those who regularly work Dolphin pose into their practice.

You need to find a comfortable and strong base with the arms parallel and wrists and elbows shoulder-distance apart. It is still easiest to get into this pose from a kneeling position as with the basic Dolphin pose but be aware of the different sensations in the arms and shoulders as you extend the hips up. 

You can of course use props or a strap to help keep your arms parallel. It may be helpful to visualize tucking your elbows in to prevent them from splaying – splayed elbows are likely to cause the upper body and head to collapse forward which is not great for the neck and is a common problem for many inversions.

Try to keep pressure constant through the wrist and elbow to help keep the hips and shoulders lifted. Keep an awareness through the hands to prevent curling of the fingers and try to keep the shoulder blades back and down throughout this pose for good posture.

Coming Out of Dolphin Pose

Exiting a pose safely is just as important as entering safely. But don’t worry, Dolphin pose is super easy to disengage from. Let your knees follow the same path down that you used to get up by gently bending until they hit the mat.

This is a good time to find Child’s pose so let your knees find the mat with your big toes touching, send your hips back so they rest on the top of your heels. Bring the arms back alongside your legs with the palms up and soak in the calming benefits of Child’s pose for several breath cycles.

Laura Simmons
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