Dolphin Pose

Ardha Pincha Mayurasana

"Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you." - T. Krishnamacharya

Dolphin Pose

HOW TO PRACTICE Dolphin Pose IN YOGA (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Dolphin Pose


Beginner yoga student enjoys a modification of Dolphin Pose with a yoga block (Sanskrit name: Ardha Pinchamayurasana)

  • Sanskrit Name: Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Type: Inversion, Balance, Shoulder Mobility and Strength, Core
  • Anatomy: Arms, Shoulders, Back, Core, Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps
  • Position: Inversion

Dolphin Pose has something for everybody. It strengthens the shoulder girdle, an area that is often weak for many yoga practitioners, especially in the early days of practice. The yoga pose also engages the core muscles we need for full inversions, such as Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Pose or Forearm Stand Pose), Sirsasana (Headstand Pose), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand Pose), and more.

In this way, Dolphin Pose is an excellent yoga posture for preparing practitioners for being upside down in any kind of inversion that relies on shoulder stability. Dolphin Pose is also a good alternative to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) for people with sensitive hands and/or wrists.

Like Downward Facing Dog Pose, Ardha Pincha Mayurasana is a great all-over yoga pose. In addition to strengthening the shoulders and preparing the body for inversions, it also emphasizes axial extension, along with overall leg strengthening and hamstring and calf stretching.

Benefits of Dolphin Pose

Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana) with blocks under heels

Dolphin Pose both opens the upper back and strengthens the shoulder girdle, increasing stability in this often unstable area of the body. It’s a great yoga pose for cultivating upper body strength, as the posture calls for active engagement in the abdominal core muscles, biceps, triceps, and back muscles. 

Dolphin Pose offers an opportunity to lengthen the whole back body, from the head and neck and spinal muscles, to the hamstrings, calves, and arches of the feet. Synergistically, Dolphin Pose tightens the quadriceps and engages the inner arms, from the armpits to the elbows. 

Dolphin Pose helps prepare the body for more full-on inverted asanas. Inverting with your head off the ground (as would be the case in Handstand or Forearm Stand) teaches you how to use your shoulders to support the weight rather than collapsing weight into the head and neck.

Dolphin Pose is beneficial as a companion pose to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). Each of those yoga postures can serve as preparation for the other. For students with hand or wrist injuries, Dolphin offers many of the same benefits of Downward Facing Dog minus the weight-bearing element on the wrists. 

As it technically falls into the category of an inversion yoga pose, many find Dolphin Pose to be energizing and mood-lifting. For people who sit all day at a computer, Dolphin Pose can offer a refreshing decompression break for the head, neck, and upper back. Next time your energy is flagging in the late afternoon, try spending a blissful moment in Dolphin Pose. (A modified version with your arms on your desk or office chair will also work fine if you’re wearing work clothes!)

Basic Dolphin Pose

yoga student practicing modification of dolphin pose in sanskrit (ardha pinchamayurasana)

  1. Start on all fours in Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose) with the wrists right under your shoulders and knees directly under the hips.
  2. Bend your elbows, placing them directly below your shoulders and slightly narrower than shoulders-width apart. Interlace your fingers completely, connecting the webbing between your fingers. The elbows have a tendency to spread out wide in Dolphin Pose. It’s important, therefore, to start with the elbows slightly narrower than shoulders-width apart so that the elbows end up shoulders-width apart once you lift your hips into the pose.
  3. Now press down into your forearms. Think of making a “karate chop” action into the floor. Press into the elbows to draw your shoulders away from your ears.
  4. There is another option for your arm position in Dolphin Pose. Alternatively, you can place your elbows on the floor slightly narrower than shoulders-width apart and place the palm sides of your forearms on the floor, parallel to one another. In this arm position, place your palms flat on the floor and spread your fingers. The forearms tend to roll outward when you lift your hips and put weight on them. Give some extra energy to grounding the thumb sides of your wrists.  
  5. On an exhalation press your hips back and up, straighten the knees and enter the yoga pose. Let your head hang freely.
  6. Press your shoulder blades into your back. This helps to keep your thoracic spine from rounding.
  7. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees so you’re able to maintain length in the spine.
  8. If you’re not feeling a stretch in your hamstrings, you can start to walk the feet toward your elbows. Make sure you continue pressing the chest forward so that your thoracic spine doesn’t begin to round.
  9. Drop your knees to the ground and bring your big toes to touch. Send your hips back to rest on your heels. Extend your arms behind you, alongside your hips, resting with the palms up. Relax in Balasana (Child’s Pose) for a few breaths.

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