The yoga poses (or “asanas” as they’re called in Sanskrit) can make you feel some type of way—both physically and mentally. So much so that if you listen closely to your body while you’re in any given pose, you can learn a lot about what’s going on with you. And if you ask yoga teacher-slash-physical therapist Lara Heimann, PT, and she’ll tell you that Catur Svanasana, or dolphin pose, offers the most accurate diagnostic for how you’re feeling from head to toe.
Heimann names dolphin, which is essentially a downward dog on your forearms instead of hands, as the most quote, unquote “all-encompassing” pose of all because it pinpoints your weak points while simultaneously working to fill those gaps. And when I ask her why the pose outshines the millions of other asanas out there, she literally walks me through how Catur Svanasana affects the human body from the neck all the way down to the toes. (Remember, you’re upsidedown—or “inverted”—in this pose!)
First thing’s first, she says, dolphin pose doesn’t put any pressure on the neck, and actually allows it to release—which great news for those of us suffering from text neck. If you find that your neck feels better in dolphin pose than it does the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day, you might consider taking more time to stretch your neck and check-in on your posture. For now, though, you can just hang out and imagine your neck growing an inch.
Moving right along to your shoulders. Heimann says dolphin works into a group of muscles called the scapular stabilizers which provide strength and stability all the way from your shoulders to your mid-back. “The scapular stabilizers are huge—and really, really important for shoulder health and optimization. Shoulders are such an area of problems for people, so they’re always asking how to strengthen them—and this is a great way to strengthen them without compression or contraindications for the shoulder,” says Heimann. If your shoulders feel stiff and unyielding in dolphin pose then, there you have it, your shoulders are in need of some serious TLC (… in the form of more time in this very pose).
Up next is the core, which gets a killer workout from simply holding this move. “Getting on your forearms is a direct hit to the core or everything in the cylinder of the torso,” says Heimann. That includes your obliques, low-abdomen, and even up into those scapular stabilizers (also members of the core club, ICYWW). To state it plainly, “You can’t snooze there with the core—all the core muscles are engaged,” says Heimann. You’ll see what she means when you pop into the pose.
The back fascial line is the final piece of your dolphin pose. “It extends from the base of…