Yoga is meant to stretch, strengthen, align, and heal the body through various poses. To truly enhance and benefit from postures, yoga bolsters are wonderful props to have on-hand. These feel-good props are similar to body pillows, but firmer and typically rectangular in shape. They are supportive anatomically and typically used to create relaxation, help soften postures, and aid in opening the body. Here are some of most common and beneficial ways to use yoga bolsters.
This is a great pose to open or close your practice with. It's a heart opener that allows the shoulders, chest, and abdomen to open and relax, which creates a relieving stretch. This is a very relaxing pose because the bolster keeps your head, neck, and back fully supported so that you can lay back and relax. It also creates space in the lower back region and eases compression. In a world where many of us spend a ton of time typing on computers and looking down at phones, this pose is a life-saver!
To achieve this supported pose, place a bolster behind you vertically, lining up the shorter end of it directly with the low back. Once the bolster is as snug to the body as possible, slowly lie down onto it. If your body is too long for the bolster, you can place a block or pillow at the end of it to support your head. Let your arms drape out to each side of the bolster, open your palms up to the sky, and relax your shoulders down. Your legs can either lay straight out or in supta baddha konasana (butterfly pose).
Savasana (Final Resting Posture)
Savasana is a very important part of a yoga practice. It's a time to find stillness, absorb the movement and energy from the practice, and let the body and mind completely relax. If lying on a hard, flat surface is uncomfortable or if you'd simply like to add a bit more cushioning to your savasana, a bolster will help! Place it directly under your knees and let your legs and feet relax. Doing so lengthens and creates space in the lower back region, which allows the body to open up and soften into the ground. This is particularly helpful for those who suffer from low back pain.
Supported Seated Forward Folds
Seated forward folds stretch the hamstrings, low-back, and spine while calming the mind and reducing stress and anxiety. However, flexibility doesn't come easily to everyone and, even if it does, forward folds on a hard, flat surface aren't necessarily to comfortable. A bolster provides a soft, supportive surface and helps bring the ground up closer to the practitioner. This helps the yogi relax their body so that they can breathe smoothly, sink deeply into the pose, and even enjoy it! To use a bolster in forward folds, lay it out in front of you long-ways and simply melt your torso over it. For those who aren't flexible enough to have their torso reach the bolster, an additional one can be placed on top of it until the practitioner can comfortably lay down.
This is a classic yoga posture that is practiced during meditation, before and after class. However, as a society, we rarely sit on the ground in a cross-legged position. For those who sit at desks or don't regularly stretch, this seated pose can be far from easy and even painful. Because there isn't enough flexibility and strength in the low back, it isn't able to support this posture in a safe way.
To keep your spine out of a compromising position, place your sit bones on top of and towards the front edge of a bolster. Cross your legs comfortably and allow your knees to rest on the ground. This will give your pelvis a forward tilt, which allows the spine to naturally lengthen. Lift up through your spine, roll your shoulders back, and gently engage your core. This supported posture will help you build the proper strength and flexibility to keep your body safe and pain-free!
Yoga bolsters are nourishing props that can facilitate benefits such as:
- greater ease in resting poses
- opening of the ribcage for deeper breathing
- encouraging heart opening in passive postures
- support of hips and low back in meditation
In addition to the postures that are shown above, here are a few other ways you can utilize yoga bolsters in your practice:
There are a variety of bolsters available for different purposes and to suit various bodies and practices. Find the best one for you!