How to Use a Bolster for Post-Holiday Stress Relief

The whirlwind of holiday shopping, social gatherings, and family time has settled. Although these events are joyous, they can also cause stress and fatigue. Now that the holidays are behind us, it's time to turn our attention inward for some calming “me time”.

As you start to settle back into your regular routines, give yourself the gift of a relaxing, rejuvenating, restorative yoga practice. It's the best way to reduce mind-body stress and tension. All you need is some stretchy clothing, a yoga mat, and the magical prop that will solve all your problems – a yoga bolster!

Bolsters support the body and allow for relief, renewal, and relaxation. They alleviate muscle tension by creating proper alignment in various poses. This lets the body unwind, which allows the mind to relax. To release any stress from the holidays, give the following bolster-supported yoga poses a try. 

Supported Child's Pose
This pose simulates a nurturing hug across the chest and belly while providing a gentle release in the lower back and hips. The protection and support of the bolster along with the knees drawn inward create a safe and grounded feeling. This is a great pose for releasing tension and reducing anxiety.

To do this pose:
1. Place your bolster vertically on your mat.
2. Fold or roll a blanket to stack on top of the bolster.
3. If you would like the bolster to be even higher up from the ground, place a block or two under it.
4. Kneeling, spread your knees a bit wider than your hips and slide the edge of the bolsters toward you.
5. Rest your belly, chest, and forehead or cheek* on the bolster and rest your arms on either side of you.
*If you rest one cheek on the bolster, make sure you turn to the other side halfway through to create symmetry in your neck.
6. Stay for three to five minutes, or longer.

Supported Savasana
This is one of the most successful poses for calming and centering the mind. The bolster supports the body, allowing it to relax, which helps alleviate muscle tension – specifically in the lower back, neck, and knees. This posture helps reduce anxiety, stress, and mild depression.

To do this pose:
1. Lay flat on your back.
2. Place the bolster horizontally underneath your knees.
3. Rest your arms on the ground, with your palms facing up.
4. Allow your legs to fully relax.
5. Close your eyes and enjoy!
6. Stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes, or as long as you'd like.

Restorative Legs-Up-The-Wall
This pose inverts the strains in our bodies that accrue from periods of sitting, standing, and stress. With the legs elevated, gravity gives blood circulation a gentle boost towards the upper body, heart, and head. This refreshes the legs and reproductive area, and rebalances the body and mind.

To do this pose:
1. Place the bolster parallel to (on its long side) and up against a wall.
2. Sit on the end of the bolster with your side touching the wall.
3. Let your hands drop back to support you as your swing your legs up the wall.
4. Come down to your elbows and eventually all the way onto your back.
5. Let your arms relax by your sides. Your pelvis remains lifted up by the bolster the whole time, creating the effects of a mild inversion.
6. Stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes, or as long as you'd like.

Supported Fish
This relaxing yoga posture opens up the front side of the body and expands the chest, offering release for the neck and shoulders. It's great for those who spend a lot of time hunched over. If you did a lot of driving, sitting, and/or traveling over the holidays, this is a great pose for you.

To do this pose:
1. Place a bolster lengthwise on your mat.
2. Sit in front of the bolster, touching your tailbone to the front edge of it.
3. Lean back onto the bolster so that your entire back is resting on it.
(Note: If your head hangs past the edge of the bolster, place a block underneath your head for support.)
4. Your arms can rest at the sides of the bolster, or reach overhead if you're looking for a deeper stretch in the shoulders and armpits.
5. Your knees can be bent, your legs can be straight, or, if you want a hip opener, you can bring the soles of your feet together to touch, allowing your knees to gently fall apart to either side.
6. Stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes, or as long as you'd like.

What are your tips and tricks for unwinding after the holidays? Share them with us in the comments below!