How to Do Dolphin Pose in Yoga (Guide to Catur Svanasana)

Dolphin Pose is the next step up from Downward Facing Dog. It’s a gentle inversion that allows the spine to lengthen and decompress while the rest of the upper body is getting stronger. Inversions have a long list of advantages, all leading to improved levels of physical and mental health.

Dolphin Pose requires a fair amount of strength, flexibility, and coordination. Executing Dolphin Pose can also bring a great deal of confidence to the practitioner, as it is a very empowering asana. In a more advanced yoga practice, Dolphin Pose is a precursor to a forearm stand, also known as Feathered Peacock.

“Dolphin is one of my favorite inversion poses,” says Yoga Answered contributor Cat Harvey. “Although it takes a little while to get it right, it’s very gratifying when you do. Once you master Dolphin Pose, you can start to really reap the benefits.”

Dolphin Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Catur Svanasana
Pose Type: Core Yoga Poses, Standing Yoga Poses, Strengthening Yoga Poses
Difficulty Level: Intermediate pose
Targets: Shoulders, upper back, hips, hamstrings, calves, ankles.
Benefits: Similar to Downward Facing Dog, Dolphin Pose is great for stretching hamstrings, calf muscles, and the sciatica nerve. It helps develop mobility in the ankles and hips while elongating the spine and allowing the neck to relax. The key difference from Downward Dog is the mechanics of the shoulders – Dolphin Pose requires extra engagement from the external rotators to keep the elbows from sliding apart. As a result, Dolphin Pose strengthens the shoulder girdle and trapeze muscles. Finally, Dolphin Pose is an inversion, which has a calming effect on most people’s minds.
Preparatory Poses: Downward Facing Dog Pose, Dolphin Plank Pose, Sphinx Pose

How to Do Dolphin Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Start in the tabletop position. Carefully lower the elbows to the floor directly underneath the shoulders. Position the forearms parallel to one another. Open the palms and grip the yoga mat with your fingertips.
  2. Tuck your toes under and begin lifting the knees. Firmly push the forearms into the ground as you bring the weight forward.
  3. Gradually lift your hips to achieve an inverted V shape. Lower your head and relax the neck. Carefully straighten your legs and reach down through the heels.
  4. Hold Dolphin Pose for up to a minute, then bring the knees down and rest in Child’s Pose.

Beginner’s Tip

To stop your elbows from riding apart, you can tie a strap just above the elbows to keep them shoulder-width apart. If you feel intense discomfort or pain in the back of your legs while performing Dolphin Pose, you can ease the tension by softening through the knees or lifting the heels away from the floor. To start with, focus on the alignment of the back and shoulders, and the hamstrings can catch up.

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