Dolphin Pose (Ardha pincha mayurasana)

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Dolphin Pose, Ardha pincha mayurasana, (ara-dhah pi-n-chhuh muh-uu-raa-suh-nuh)

ardha (half) + pincha (feathers) + mayura (peacock) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Catur Svanasana, Quarter Dog Pose

Pose Type: Inversion, Stretching, Strengthening, Balancing

Difficulty: Intermediate

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing dolphin pose

Strengthen your arms, shoulders, and core in Dolphin Pose, or come into it in preparation for more advanced arm balances

Dolphin Pose Fundamentals

Find a new take on the iconic Downward-Facing Dog shape with Dolphin Pose. This strengthening asana is a great alternative to Down Dog and a prep for Elbow Stand – being a mix of the two asanas.

Your body will take the same triangular shape as the Down Dog, but instead of keeping your arms extended, you’ll balance on your elbows. This is a much better alternative for those struggling with wrist pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. 

However, this pose can also be more difficult than Down-Dog for others, as it requires more openness in the shoulders upper back, chest, and hamstrings.

For this reason, it’s very possible you won’t be able to touch the heels to the ground in this asana even if you can do it in Down Dog, and that’s completely normal

In Sanskrit, this pose is called Ardha  Pincha Mayurasana, which translates to Half-Feathered Peacock Pose.

This name talks about the close relation of this pose with the Forearm Stand. If you were thinking about learning this arm balance, you’ll need to nail Dolphin Pose first. 

If you like to think about deeper intentions when practicing yoga poses – perhaps you can contemplate the dolphin while practicing this pose.

Think about its grace, friendliness, peace, joyfulness, and harmony, and how you could cultivate more of these qualities in your life. 

Otherwise, you can also think about it energetically – Dolphin Pose is connected to the Sahasrara or Crown Chakra.

Working with this energy center helps build the virtues of devotion, deep connection, inspiration, trust, positivity, and joy.

Dolphin Pose Benefits

  • Ideal alternative if you can’t practice Downward Dog due to sensitive or aching wrists.
  • Strengthens the arms, back, abs, shoulders, and legs – basically the whole body.
  • Prepares the body for arm balances, especially the Headstand and Forearm balance. You can use it to check whether you are ready for these poses, but also to build confidence to attempt them. 
  • Gives relief from insomnia, depression, headaches, fatigue, stress, and anxiety
  • Boosts concentration, focus, and memory. 
  • Relieves low back pain and menstrual cramps.
  • Lengthens the hamstrings and arches of the feet.
  • Helps you become aware of your body alignment and can help with posture with consistent practice. 
  • As an inversion, it brings the same benefits as other inversions, like improving blood flow to the brain and vital body organs.

How To Do Dolphin Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

  1. Begin on your hands and knees in Table Top Pose. Place your forearms on the floor, and move the elbows under your shoulders. You can keep the forearms parallel, or grasp the hands in the middle.
  2. With an exhalation, curl your toes. Activate your core, and lift your hips off the floor.
  3. Lift the hips as high as you can, just as you would for Downward Facing Dog. Straighten the legs and push the heels towards the ground.
  4. Engage your legs and draw the belly in. Push the forearms firmly into the floor to lengthen your upper body. 
  5. Activate your shoulders and move them down and back, but maintain length in the spine and space between the shoulder blades.
  6. Keep the head off the ground.
  7. Hold for 5 to 20 breaths. 
  8. Release back to Child’s Pose and rest. 
an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing dolphin Pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • Before you lift into the pose, check the positioning of your arms. Grab the opposite elbows with your fingertips to make sure they are shoulder-width distance apart. Then move the forearms to the front of the mat.
  • Keeping the back straight is more important than keeping the legs straight – if you are rounding the back, elongate them and bend the knees instead. 
  • Your spine should be straight – which also means you don’t want your rib cage to sink toward the floor as you are back bending. Instead, draw the ribs in to create a flat back. 
  • Although the intention of pushing the heels towards the ground helps with alignment in this asana – they don’t need to touch it. Don’t walk your feet forward just to touch the floor with the heels. 
  • If you are doing Dolphin Pose as a prep for Forearm Balance and other balances, try holding it longer. Start with 15 breaths and move toward a minute. In this way, you’ll build the strength and flexibility for the Forearm Balance, but will also help you get used to the shape which can feel a bit weird at first. 

Dolphin Pose Variation:

Dolphin Pose Variation: Dynamic Dolphin Pose

One of the ways in which you can play in Dolphin Pose is by doing it dynamically.

For example, you can come on your toes with an inhale, then move your heels back toward the floor on the exhalation.

You could also move into the Forearm Plank on an inhale, and transition back to Dolphin Pose with the exhalation.

You can also lift one leg at a time for more glute activation, shift from Dolphin to Down Dog and back to Dolphin, do press-ups by lifting and lowering your chin, or lift the elbows slightly off the ground to challenge your shoulders more. 

These dynamic exercises are perfect for building strength and are common in Power yoga. 

Dolphin Pose Variation: Dolphin Pose With Props

You can use a yoga block to help you in this asana. Hold it between your hands to help you maintain proper alignment of your elbows and to keep your forearms parallel.

Alternatively, you can also place a block between the thighs to engage the legs further. 

A blanket can help you too – you can place it under the forearms for more cushioning, or under the heels to support the feet. 

If you have weak shoulders, you can practice Dolphin Pose against a wall. Face the wall, and enter the Half Forward fold. Then, place the hands and forearms on the wall in front of you, in the same way as you would put them on the floor. 

Dolphin Pose Variation: Position of The Body

You can create step your feet slightly away from each other and bend the knees if you are pregnant, or have weak lower back and/or knees.

Furthermore, if you’d like to work towards the forearm balance, step your feet closer to your arms.

That will also automatically raise your hips overhead. Then, engage your core and lift one leg up. Hold it up for a couple of breaths, move it back down then repeat on the other side. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Back rounding. It’s common for students to round their backs to compensate for the lack of flexibility in the back and the hamstrings. To open your shoulders, you can try clasping the palms together. Furthermore, you can bend the knees, to keep the spine long. 

Injuries and Conditions

Bend the knees if you have injuries in the shoulders, back, neck, or arms. Also avoid conditions that cause balance issues, such as infections of the inner ear or high blood pressure. Refrain from the pose if you have any problems with the eyes or while experiencing migraines and headaches due to the increased blood flow to the upper body.

Related Poses

Forearm Balance

Downward Dog Pose

Forearm Plank

Preparatory Poses:

Table Top Pose

Downward Dog Pose

Forearm Plank

Sphinx Pose

Counter Poses:

Child’s Pose

Peacock Pose

Bridge Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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