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Beginner Yoga How To

4 Steps to Master Dolphin Pose

Open and strengthen the shoulders, open the hamstrings, and prepare the body and mind to go upside down in Dolphin Pose. Learn how to get the most out of this pose.

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NEXT STEP IN YOGAPEDIA 3 Ways To Modify Dolphin Pose

Dolphin Pose


1. From Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), kneel, then bring your elbows, forearms, and hands to the floor in front of your knees, shoulder-width apart. To get a good foundation, turn your palms up then rotate them down. Spread your fingers comfortably. Elongate your forearms away from your elbows; make sure they are parallel and grounded. Press down through your inner wrists. Think about your middle and index fingers reaching from the centers of your elbows—this will keep your hands from sliding together and create a line of energy that helps you find stability in forearm-balance poses. This is your foundation.

2. Keep your upper arms parallel as you slide your knees directly under your hips. Curl your toes under. Bring your shoulders directly over your elbows. Engage the outsides of your upper arms to keep your elbows from splaying. Hug your upper arms to your bones to ground the inner elbows and engage your inner upper arms. Evenly lift the inner and outer arms—this will create a level platform for the shoulders. Press the forearms down to lift the shoulders away from the elbows.

3. Keep your shoulders over your elbows and exhale to lift your hips. Place your ears in line with your upper arms. Keep your shoulders lifted so your neck can release and lengthen. Let your legs share in the work. Press down with your feet to engage and lift the fronts of the legs. Take the top thighs toward the backs of the legs to open the hamstrings.

4. Your front arms—from the armpits to the elbows—are pillars. Resist moving the fronts of the arms toward the fingertips; continue to engage the inner and outer arms. Lift your hips away from the shoulders even more to extend the sides of your body. Keep your legs active! Let your thoracic spine and shoulder blades move into the center of your body—this will help lift your shoulders and keep your back from rounding. When the legs work and the shoulders lift, the body will get lighter and the breath will be free. Hold for several breaths before exhaling back to your knees.

See also Upside-Down Prep: Dolphin Pose

Avoid This Mistake

dolphin dog pose

Don’t let your shoulders move behind the elbows. Instead, stack them over the elbows to avoid puffing out your armpits and risking shoulder injury.

About Our Pros
Teacher Maty Ezraty is a student of both Ashtanga and Iyengar Yoga, having studied with K. Pattabhi Jois and senior Iyengar teachers. She began teaching in 1985, and in 1987 opened YogaWorks, where she directed the Teacher Training Program for more than 16 years. In 2004, she sold YogaWorks, moved to Hawaii, and now holds workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings internationally. Learn more at

Model Krista Cahill has been a student of Ezraty’s for 10 years. Cahill teaches retreats around the world, plus regular vinyasa classes at YogaWorks in Santa Monica. Find her schedule at