Friday, July 25, 2014

Nurturing Independence with Yoga: Supported Dolphin Pose

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

There is an ongoing debate in the Yoga community about whether or not the use of props nurtures dependency or independence. In some traditions, the use of props like bolsters, straps and blocks is highly recommended for students who are unable to practice the postures in correct alignment without these tools. However, in other Yoga traditions, the use of props is often viewed as a sign of weakness and failure at achieving a challenging posture on one’s own volition. 

Yoga props can either keep a student stuck at a certain level, or the use of appropriate props can help to support a student in the successful practice of a posture that may have alluded him or her for many months. Practicing binding postures, challenging backbends and freestanding inversions are often the hallmark of a Yogi or Yogini’s adeptness at the practice of intermediate and advanced asanas. Nevertheless, there are times when it is inappropriate or even dangerous for a Yoga teacher to push his or her students into these challenging postures before the students are fully prepared. 

Accurately gauging your students’ level of preparedness for the practice of specific asanas is one of the hallmarks of a good Yoga teacher. If you are teaching a class to a mixed group of students, this quality is particularly important. For example, if you are entering into the practice of a sequence of challenging inversion postures, such as handstand and headstand, accurately gauging your students’ abilities is paramount to teaching a safe Yoga class. By using appropriate props for different students, you will facilitate the correct practice of a wide assortment of Yoga poses in a safe manner. 

The practice of inversions is often difficult for many beginning and intermediate students. It is not uncommon for Yoga students to have difficulty performing freestanding inversions without the support of a wall to be quite difficult for months, or even years. By using the wall as a Yoga prop, you will be able to instruct your students on how to practice challenging inversions, while substantially reducing their risk of hurting themselves.

* Supported Dolphin Pose

Supported Dolphin Pose is a very accessible inversion that prepares Yoga students to safely practice more advanced inversions. Traditionally, Dolphin Pose has been practiced without the use of a wall in the middle of a room. However, the practice of Supported Dolphin Pose with the aid of a wall helps a student to become comfortable in inversion postures, while strengthening the muscles of the neck, shoulders and arms. Do keep in mind that inversions are contraindicated in the case of head or neck injuries, pregnancy, menstruation, high blood pressure, and some eye diseases.  

In addition, Dolphin Pose also offers a Yoga practitioner many of the benefits of more strenuous inversions, such as headstand, handstand and Pincha  Mayurasana. In fact, Pincha Mayurasana, or Feathered Peacock Pose, is literally just a step above Dolphin Pose. The pose is the same, only with the legs raised vertically in the air instead of in a “T” shape against the wall. Dolphin Pose is usually practiced after a series of Sun Salutations and standing postures in a Yoga class. In other words, after you are amply warmed up. 

When you are ready to practice Supported Dolphin Pose, find a free wall space in your home or studio and place your mat perpendicular to the wall. Come down and rest in Child’s Pose on your mat with your feet against the wall. With an inhale, come to your knees and place your clasped hands together on the mat in front of you with your hands and elbows creating a triangle. Your hands should be far enough away from the wall so that you have room to walk your feet up the wall behind you and still keep your legs extended. 


Shift the weight of your body onto your forearms and slowly walk your feet up the wall behind you until they are hip height. If your upper back rounds, bend your knees until you can comfortably maintain a straight line between your hips and your shoulders. Hold Supported Dolphin Pose for thirty seconds to a minute. When you are ready to exit the posture, with an exhale, release the pose and come down and rest in Child’s Pose for several breaths. Repeat Supported Dolphin Pose two more times before continuing on with the rest of your Yoga practice. 

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

3 comments:

parvezbdjsr said...

Supported Dolphin Pose is a very accessible inversion that prepares Yoga students to safely practice more advanced inversions, Really its very informative post!

Mary Wilson said...

The practice of Supported Dolphin Pose with the aid of a wall helps a student to become comfortable in inversion postures, Its also offers many of the benefits of more strenuous inversions. Good article!

Cherry Hope Gonzaga said...

Using props, for me, is not a sign of weakness. Like Supported Dolphin Pose, it is more comfortable for the students to use a wall to do this pose. I love this article.