Dolphin Pose, or Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, is a demanding shoulder and core-strengthening posture that has the added benefit of opening up the shoulders, chest, and hamstrings. It teaches the practitioner the importance of pressing down onto the mat to create upward rotation of the shoulders and drawing back through the top of the thighs to lengthen the spine.
This posture is great for preparing for a Forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana), and it also works well on its own to cultivate strength, openness, steady breathing, and an ability to focus.
Warm up the body.
Any “big” pose should only be performed after a sufficient warm-up to reduce injury risk and keep the body in a safe state.
Start with 5 to 7 Cow and Cat rounds to mobilize your spine. Press the hands into the floor firmly to activate the shoulders.
Focus on actively pressing the upper armbones towards each other as you move through Cat-Cow. This will activate the chest muscles. This will also teach you how to adduct, which engages the serratus posterior (also known as “hugging into the midline”). Once the knees have been lifted, such as when in Downward Dog or High Plank, adduction of the arms becomes more difficult.
Continue with 3-5 rounds, varying the Sun Salutations as you please. Adduct your arms in a High Plank or Downward Dog.
The shoulders in the Dolphin pose are primarily protracted shoulder blades and rotated upwards (with active adduction).
Use this flow to connect these actions.
Tiger Curl Pose
The right leg should be raised, and the knee should be brought forward towards the nose. Lift the thigh to the heart. Press firmly with your hands to protract the shoulder blades.
As you lift both arms, step forward with your right foot into Crescent Lunge. Rotate your shoulders so that the baby’s fingertips turn towards each other. Then, lift the arms with force. The shoulders are rotating upwards, and the shoulder blades protrude.
Warrior II with Eagle Arms
Warrior II is achieved by turning the heel of the back foot down. Find the eagle arms with your left elbow underneath. Once again, the shoulder blades should be wide. The shoulder blades are once again wide.
Release the Eagle arms by resting your left hand on the leg and reaching back and up with your right arm. Rotate your top arm as if you were turning the pinky towards the floor.
Increase Hamstring Flexibility
Dolphin pose is a shoulder strengthening exercise that also requires space in the body’s back to allow the hips to rest over the shoulders without the shoulders moving ahead of the elbows.
These postures, from Big Toe (Padangusthasana) to Standing Splits and Half Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana), encourage forward folding by creating length in the back of the legs. Think about folding the front of your abdomen toward the fronts of your thighs.
It may be necessary to bend your knees so that there is a minimum space between the thighs and the heart if you have a tighter back. This will help to maintain the optimal length of your lumbar spine and encourage deep core activation.
When folding forward, be sure to keep your back straight and draw your armpits away. Exhaling, move the crown of the head to (and beyond) the tops of your feet.
Forearm Planks and Core
Lift the elbows and place them under the shoulders. Spread your fingers and place the hands at shoulder width. Curl the toes and straighten your knees with feet hip-width distance apart. On your exhalation, pull in through the navel.
Keep your elbows firmly pressed into the middle of the body. They may try to spread out, especially if you have tight shoulders. Keep your neck long and gaze between your thumbs or index finger. Every time you exhale, tighten your abdomen and lift the belly button toward the spine.
Tip: If you cannot hug your forearms in the middle, rotate the wrists to the outside so that the palms are facing the block and squeeze it with your hands.
Forearm Plank Pose (see above) is a good entry point into Dolphin Pose.
Step your inner feet together to squeeze the legs into the midline. As you prepare, exhale and begin walking the feet forward toward the elbows to raise the pelvis towards the sky. To stabilize your posture, you will need to recruit the muscles in the back, shoulders, and core.
If you have tight shoulders, refer to the “tip” in Forearm Plank.
In this position, the shoulder rotation is upward.
Press the tops of the legs back and move the abdomen to the tops of the thighs. This will lengthen your spine, especially the lumbar area.
Keep your knees bent if you have tight hamstrings.
Keep the neck long and soft by letting the head hang down and relax.
Counter and Close
We can create balance by gently bending our backs. Cobra pose, Locust position, and Bridge position are just a few examples. Consider postures that will widen the chest and lengthen the abdominal area.
As the hips are mostly neutral, you can also rotate the hips in the Garland and Pigeon poses.
These final poses can be grounded by using a slower breath and holding the postures for longer periods. Savasana is the final pose.