Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) is a popular arm-balancing yoga pose. While it does a great job of toning your arms and abdominal muscles, it can be almost impossible to do for those with wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. This variation, called Dolphin Side Plank, is practiced on the forearms. This takes the pressure off the wrists while providing all of the benefits of Side Plank Pose.
If your wrists are sore from sports, weight lifting, computer work, or other repetitive activities, Dolphin Side Plank can be a great modification to try!
Benefits of Dolphin Side Plank
Dolphin Side Plank tones your forearms, upper arms, shoulders, and spine. It improves stamina and builds strength throughout the entire body, including the abdomen and low back. This pose also strengthens the muscles around the spine, which helps to improve posture. Due to the balancing nature of this pose, it sculpts the abdominal muscles, and improves balance, concentration, and focus. This pose is often used as a preparation for more challenging arm balances.
The effort required to hold Dolphin Side Plank reduces stress by calming and focusing the mind. Regularly practicing this pose will improve the function of the nervous system, while increasing endurance and overall fitness.
All is in you. You are the storehouse of your totality.
Do not practice Dolphin Side Plank if you have a recent or current shoulder, back, arm, or neck injury. Also avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure, or infections to the eye or inner ear. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Lower your elbows to the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your forearms parallel to each other and to the side edges of your mat. Distribute your weight evenly across both forearms. Breathe smoothly and evenly through your nose.
- Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line. Align your heels over your toes.
- Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. If your butt sticks up in the air, realign your body so your shoulders are directly above your elbows.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and draw your pelvic floor muscles toward your spine. Keep your head in line with your spine. This is Dolphin Plank.
- Step your feet together and press your weight down through your right hand and forearm. Then roll your body to the right, balancing on the outer edge of your right foot. At the same time, allow your right forearm and hand to turn forward, pointing in the direction that you are now facing. Continue pressing your right forearm and hand firmly into the floor. Rest your left hand on your left hip.
- Stack your left foot on top of your right foot and keep your legs straight.
- Lift your hips and firm the triceps of both arms. Feel the muscles across your shoulder blades flex. Firm your thighs, and press your bottom heel into the floor.
- Bring your body into one straight line. Gaze softly forward toward the horizon. Press down through your bottom forearm and palm.
- Hold the pose while breathing smoothly for up to 10 breaths. Exhale as you slowly return to Dolphin Plank Pose. Repeat on the opposite side. After you have completed both sides, rest in Child's Pose (Balasana).
Modifications & Variations
Dolphin Side Plank is a challenging core strengthener, and it’s also a great modification for those with wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome! It can take some time to build up enough strength to hold the pose. Take it slowly and be sure not over-stress your shoulders. Try these modifications to find a variation of the pose that works for you:
- Bring your bottom leg’s knee and shin to the mat until you have enough strength to fully support your bodyweight. You can also try keeping your bottom leg extended, bending your top knee, and then stepping your top foot in front of your body.
- For a greater challenge, lift your top leg 6-12 inches. Hold the lifted leg for five breaths, and then lower it. Repeat up to five times. Change sides and repeat the leg lift with the opposite leg for the same amount of time.
- If you are a more advanced student, you can extend the top leg completely. Bend the top knee and draw it toward your chest. Then reach inside your leg and grab your big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your top hand. Inhale as you stretch your leg straight up toward the ceiling, eventually bringing it perpendicular to the floor. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then return your top foot to its original position, and repeat on the opposite side.
Dolphin Side Plank can quickly build strength throughout the whole body. However, it’s important to ensure that you are performing the pose with correct alignment; otherwise, it’s very easy to injure your shoulders. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- The foundational alignment for this pose is found in both Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana). Thoroughly review the instructions for these poses before practicing Dolphin Side Plank!
- Stack your top foot directly on top of your bottom foot, just as if you were standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
- Keep your bottom shoulder aligned directly over your bottom elbow.
- Spread your fingers and press down firmly through your bottom knuckles and forearm.
- Keep the space between your shoulder blades wide as you broaden across your collarbones. This action will help prepare you for other arm balances, like Crow Pose (Bakasana).
Build Core Strength
Dolphin Side Plank will add variety to your regular yoga practice. It will also strengthen your shoulders and core muscles! Try holding Dolphin Side Plank for extended periods to build focus, endurance, and stamina. Practicing the pose several times a week will boost your mental concentration and tone your muscles even more!