How to Use a Bolster to Open up & Unwind After a Long Day

Tight hips, back pain, shoulder discomfort, and a hunched posture. Do any of these sound (and feel) familiar? How about fatigue, stress, irritability, and a foggy mind? If you're a human in today's world, chances are you'll experience at least one of these issues at one point or another. Whether the majority of your days are spent standing on foot or seated at your desk, those repetitive, prolonged actions take a toll!

It's vital to the health of your body and mind to reverse the strenuous effects of these daily patterns. You can open up areas that have become tight and compressed, plus allow your body and mind to unwind and relax at the end of the day by adopting a nightly restorative ritual. Just a few minutes and one yoga bolster are all you need to work some restorative magic. Here are four simple, soothing postures to do with a bolster that will melt your strains and stresses away!

Supported Fish
This relaxing yoga backbend opens up the front side of the body and expands the chest, offering release for the neck and shoulders. It's especially popular amongst those who are computer-bound for the majority of the day. Here's how to do the pose:

1. Place a bolster lengthwise on your mat.
2. Sit in front of the bolster, touching your tailbone to the front edge of the bolster.
3. Lean back onto the bolster so that your entire back rests on it. (Note: If you're on the tall side and your head hangs past the edge of the bolster, place a block that's the same height as the bolster 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're looking for a hip opener, you can bring the soles of your feet together to touch, allowing your knees to gently fall apart to either side.

Supported Bridge
This pose provides relief for both the body and mind. It extends the spine and stretches the front of the hips, belly, and chest. This posture helps relieve lower back pain and releases hip flexor tightness. It's great for those who spend a lot of time hunched over (we're talking to you, bikers, drivers, and keyboard users). To do this pose:

1. Lay your bolster horizontally on your mat.
2. Place your hips on top of the bolster, resting your pelvis and tailbone directly on top of it.
3. Lower your torso all the way down to your mat, coming to rest on the upper part of your back.
4. Your knees can either be bent with your feet placed flat on the floor, or, if you're looking for a deeper stretch, your legs can extend out straight.
5. You can rest your arms wherever you'd like.


Supported Legs up the Wall
This restorative pose is super calming for the mind and body. It allows lymph and other fluids (which often lead to swollen ankles, tired knees, and congested pelvic organs) to flow into the lower belly. This refreshes and relieves tired or cramped legs as well as the reproductive area. It also boosts blood circulation toward the upper body and head, which is rebalancing if you've been standing or sitting for a long period of time. In addition, it gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck. This posture is especially rejuvenating if you are stressed, fatigued, or jet-lagged. To do this pose:

1. Lay your bolster horizontally up against a wall.
2. Place your hips on top of the bolster, resting your pelvis and tailbone directly on top of the bolster with your seat scooched up against the wall.
3. Lower your torso all the way down to your mat, coming to rest on the upper part of your back.
4. Lift your legs straight up towards the sky and allow your heels to rest against the wall.
5. Your legs can stay lifted straight up, or they can stretch outwards into a “V” if you'd like to stretch your inner groin and thighs.
6. You can rest your arms wherever you'd like.


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 relieve muscle tension - specifically in the lower back, neck, and knees. This posture also 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!

Each of these supported yoga poses can be held for as long as you'd like! The longer you hold the pose, the more you'll unwind and open up in tense areas. Do you have any other restorative uses for a bolster? We'd love to hear them! Share them with us in the comments below!