For many of us, January presents an opportunity to begin again, writing a new chapter for ourselves whether it be mentally, physically, or spiritually. It is a chance to reset and renew from the hustle and bustle the holidays can bring. On a yoga level, that may mean finding poses that help promote self-care and wellness. I recently came across Oscar Insurance, a new company providing health insurance in New York and New Jersey. The value they place on making sure their members are proactive about their health prompted me to think about how I can do the same through my yoga practice.
About fifteen years ago, I spent some time in Freemantle, Australia. One of my favorite memories is relaxing on the beach and watching the dolphins play offshore. These moments hold simplicity for me and for the dolphins I was lucky enough to share them with. I was at peace, there was no agenda and there was no place I had to be, except in that very moment. I believe it was the same for the dolphins. They seemed delighted to be in the water, showing off for all of us on land. Their movements were easy and they loved being right there.
As a result, I think one of my preferred poses to introduce to clients is Dolphin pose. This relaxing, rejuvenating pose can be the key to resetting your mind and reducing stress. Unlike other inversion poses, dolphin does not necessarily require intense flexibility and strength to achieve. Similar to Downdog pose, except your forearms are grounded on the mat, rather than your hands.
Why use it?
Since the heart is higher than the head in this pose, as with all inversions, it is said to relax the brain, which can also help to relieve stress. This pose restores blood back to the heart as it stretches and strengthens the spine, neck and shoulders. It also stretches the hamstrings and calves, if legs are extended and not bent. Gentle inversions, like Dolphin pose, can also help to reduce high blood pressure when practiced over time because as you invert you are actually deceiving your body into lowering your blood pressure as the pressure increases in your head and neck. Furthermore, this pose can help reduce hot flashes in women experiencing menopause as blood pressure is lowered, stabilizing energy levels. On the other hand, if you are looking to strengthen your upper body and core for my more advanced inversions, Dolphin pose is an ideal starting point.
Photo Credit: Melissa Brott Photography
How to get into it
From tabletop, or all fours, bring your elbows and forearms to the ground, gazing between your elbows. On an exhale breath, lift your knees away from the mat, either keeping them bent to protect your hamstrings or straighten through the back of your legs as you would in a Downdog pose. If you notice rounding in your shoulders, bend in your knees as you focus on pressing your torso back towards your thighs. Think of your chest reaching towards your toes as your head reaches down towards the mat. Do not allow your head to press down into the mat, as it could cause undue stress on your neck. Attempt to hold the pose for 5 breaths, if not longer, recognizing you build stamina over time.
Dolphin pose can also be used as a wonderful modification for Downdog pose, if you are looking to protect your wrists.
~The divine in me salutes the divine in you, Namaste~