The Dolphin

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If a hatha yoga instructor were to pick only one all-around training pose for students who are almost able to do the headstand, it would have to be the dolphin. This posture is related to the down-facing dog, but it is also a well-known posture in its own right. It's helpful for developing upper body strength, hip flexibility, and abdominal and back strength. To do it, begin in the child's pose (fig. 6.18) with the body folded onto itself on the floor. Then lift up enough to place the forearms on the floor in front of you with the hands interlocked. With the hips still resting near the heels, the' forearms are positioned at a 90" angle from one another. Next, keeping

coming back up) from the down-facing dog is an excellent floor exercise for building enough strength in the upper extremities to begin practice of the headstand. You'll want to come forward only a little at first, so you can push yourself back up into the down-facing dog. This is no pushup—it's much mon difficult coming back up) from the down-facing dog is an excellent floor exercise for building enough strength in the upper extremities to begin practice of the headstand. You'll want to come forward only a little at first, so you can push yourself back up into the down-facing dog. This is no pushup—it's much mon difficult

Figure 8.29. The dolphin posture is the most famous preparatory posture for th< headstand. It strengthens all the muscles that stabilize the scapulae and arms, and does so from the V-shaped position of the forearms that is similar to the customary starting position for the headstand.

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the forearms on the floor, press up into a piked position ending with the hips flexed yo' (fig. 8.29).

Coming into the dolphin is accomplished by a combination of whole-body muscular efforts: lifting the head, straightening the knees with the quadriceps femoris muscles, and then pushing your weight back with the shoulders and triceps brachii muscles untd the head is in the V between the forearms. If the hamstrings are so tight that you cannot push back with the knees straight, bend the knees as much as necessary to permit the movement, or adjust the feet slightly to the rear.

If you are able to push back into the dolphin, you will be stabilizing the scapulae in upwardly-rotated positions with the same muscles that assist the down-facing dog: the teres major and minor, the infraspinatus, the sub-scapularis, and the serratus anterior. Pushing the torso back and keeping the arms braced in the i8or llcxed position overhead is strongly resisted by the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi, so this posture gives those muscles an excellent workout in the stretched position. Finally, the triceps brachii is strongly engaged for extension of the forearm.

To budd strength for the headstand, lift the head over the hands and stretch forward enough to touch the nose or chin to the floor in front of the hands (fig. 8.30). If the feet were well back in the first place, the body will now be almost straight. This makes the exercise too easy, so come back to the first position with the head in the V made by the forearms and walk the feet forward to reemphasize the piked position. Repeat the exercise, lifting the head over the hands and then pulling it back behind them, over and over again. The closer the knees are to the elbows in the preparatory position, the more strength and hamstring flexibility you will need to accomplish the movement gracefully. Finally, as your strength and flexibility continue to improve, you can take the head even further forward, barely touching the floor with the chin.

Figure 8.30. Bringing the nose forward from the dolphin posture and then back up creates a different exercise than in the case of coming down and forward from the down-facing dog. This one is relatively easy if your feet are far enough back, but quite difficult if you start the dolphin with an acutely angled pike position, especially if you do not have the ability to flex your hip joints 90°.

Figure 8.30. Bringing the nose forward from the dolphin posture and then back up creates a different exercise than in the case of coming down and forward from the down-facing dog. This one is relatively easy if your feet are far enough back, but quite difficult if you start the dolphin with an acutely angled pike position, especially if you do not have the ability to flex your hip joints 90°.

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