How to Do Dolphin Pushups in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Ben Goldstein / Verywell

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Abdominals, core, back, shoulders, chest

Level: Intermediate

If you are looking for a core pose that you can incorporate into your flow, the Dolphin Pushup is a great choice. For those not practicing yoga, it is an alternative to crunches or plank variations or a way to change your pushup routine. Working with your forearms on the floor is also a way to prepare for Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana). You might even try playing with kicking up your legs once you get warmed up if you feel ready. Use this as part of a flow yoga sequence or as part of a total body workout or core workout.


Core strength is at the heart of an advancing yoga practice. Inversions, arm balances, and standing balances all require power that radiates from the core. This exercise combines the stretch and inversion of Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana) with a pushup. It is great for strengthening your arms and shoulders but you must use your abs and core muscles to stabilize your torso. The hamstrings and calves get a good stretch. The upper body muscles that come into play in the pushup are the deltoids, pectorals, triceps, biceps, and erector spinae. The abdominal muscles used to hold the body rigid during the pushup are the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis. As the pushup involves multiple joints, it is a compound exercise. The functional fitness you develop with pushups will serve you well in all of the pushing activities of daily life. Changing your pushup regimen with variations such as the Dolphin Pushup will challenge you in new ways.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin in Dolphin Pose (sometimes called Puppy Pose), which is essentially Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) with your forearms on the mat. The basic way to get into this pose is from a hands-and-knees position with the forearms down. Then you lift your hips as you would when coming into Down Dog. If you want to try something a little fancier, come into a regular Downward Facing Dog and then simultaneously lower both forearms to the floor. Dolphin is a really good alternative to Down Dog for people with wrist pain.

  1. Move your forearms to a V position so that you can interlace your fingers the way you would in preparation for a Headstand. This gives you a little more traction as you begin to move, but you can also leave the hands separate and arms parallel if you prefer.
  2. Move your torso forward so that your face comes over your hands, while inhaling. The elbows will be lined up under your shoulders. Keep your body straight as you would in a plank position. In fact, this is basically a forearm plank with the hands clasped.
  3. Push the hips back to Dolphin while exhaling. This is the basic back and forth motion of the Dolphin Pushup.
  4. Try to do 10 reps, moving the torso forward to a plank position on the inhale and pushing your hips back to dolphin on the exhale.
  5. When your set is complete, come down and rest in Child's Pose. Depending on your stamina, you could try to go for one or two more sets of 10. If that's not possible yet, work up to it.

Common Mistakes

To get the most out of this exercise, avoid these errors.

Sagging Lower Back

When moving to plank position, don't let your lower back collapse and hips to dip below a straight line with your shoulders as this can lead to strain. Keep your abs engaged.

Extending the Neck

Do not crane your neck or lift your chin to look around. Keep your neck and chin in line with your arms and back at all times.

Modifications and Variations

As with most yoga poses, you can get enter this pose in various ways and modify it according to your level of fitness and flexibility.

Need a Modification?

While the ideal Dolphin Pose has feet flat on the floor, this requires great flexibility in your calves and hamstrings. It is fine to have your heels off the floor but stretching toward the floor.

Up for a Challenge?

If you are working on Forearm Stand, this is a good time to try one since you've acclimated your body to the arm position. From Dolphin, walk your feet in toward your elbows as close as possible. Raise one leg and give it a little hop.

The goal is to get your hips over your shoulders. If you're worried about going all the way over, move to a wall but give yourself a bit of distance from the wall so you can get a feel for the balance. Another strategy is to put a strap around your arms just above the elbows to keep them from moving apart from one another.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this exercise if you have any injuries to your wrists, feet, or ankles. As it involves an inversion, you should avoid it if you have glaucoma or high blood pressure. If you feel any pain in your neck or back, ease yourself out of the position.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.