Dolphin Pose has earned recognition this week for the glorious effects it has on my tight shoulders as an active respite during a tough practice. This pose builds upper body strength while it opens the chest, shoulders, and inner armpits. The core is toned, the thighs are strengthened, and the backs of the legs are stretched.
Dolphin is a great pose for building strength in preparation for Sirsasana (headstand) and Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand). One develops strength in the muscles of the shoulder girdle, stabilizing the scapulae and allowing one to carry weight on the forearms, necessary for protecting the head and neck in Sirsasana. The ability to remain in Dolphin Pose comfortably for at least ten breaths is a good indicator of one's readiness for Sirsasana. Dolphin Pose also opens the chest and aligns the shoulders for Pincha Mayurasana, and serves as a starting point for lifting the legs into the full inversion.
The sensation around the shoulders can be strong, particularly if the chest is tight. The shoulderblades are laid flat against the back and the thoracic spine is extended, which makes for a strong stretch along the inner armpits. This is especially true if the forearms are kept parallel to each other and the palms flat against the mat, rather than with the fingers interlaced or the palms pressed together, as some prefer to practice the pose. I find that the closer my hands get to one another, the more rounding that occurs in my upper back as a result, which limits the opening effects of the pose. If the hamstrings are tight, another cause for roundness of the spine, the knees may remain bent so the pelvis tilts anteriorly, which will extend the low back and lift the sit bones. Keep stretching down through the heels and lifting through the inner thighs. Breath into the shoulders and melt your heart toward your shins.
Dolphin Pose Sequence: This strong sequence opens the shoulders and strengthens the core in preparation for Pincha Mayurasana.
- Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge) - Take the Garudasana arm position here and step forward into the next pose.
- Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
- Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3)
- Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
- Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
- Forearm Side Plank
- Forearm Plank
- Dolphin Pose
- Pincha Mayurasana kicks (Forearm Stand) - Walk the feet in some more, come up onto the toes of the left foot, and make tiny kicks up with the right leg. Take the full inversion if you want it, and be sure to kick up with the opposite leg when you revisit the pose on the other side.
- Adho Muka Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) OR Balasana (Child's Pose)
- Repeat steps 1-10 on the opposite side.