by Outside Expert, Lily Russo
Bolsters are so lovely to have on-hand for your yoga practice. They can facilitate greater ease in resting poses, an open ribcage for deeper breathing, and support for your hips in meditation. They support heart opening in passive postures in a gentle way that is just not possible without them. I can't think of many things that are more nourishing then laying back onto a big bolster and spending some time to completely relax into it.
There are a variety of bolsters available for different purposes and to suit various bodies and practices. I tested and reviewed six that range from traditional bolsters to neck and meditation cushions to give you some insight into the quality, materials, aesthetics, and uses of your options when it comes to choosing a bolster. All of the bolsters excel from a functional stand point. My goal in this review was to highlight some of the differences in what they can do (and how they look and feel) to help in your purchasing decision.
Chattra Oval Bolster (71.95)
Material: 100% Cotton Cover
Dimensions: 24" L x 12" W x 6" H
This feels like the luxury car of yoga bolsters. I love the gorgeous hand-printed design, and love even more that it was made in an ethical workshop in India using traditional hand-block techniques. It's quite firm and facilitates a great heart opener when lying on it, though for someone with a tight chest or stiff back it might be too much.
It also looks great and, thanks to the print, it doesn't easily show your furry friend's hairs or other stains. Both the stuffing and fabric are 100% cotton, and I like knowing that I'm lying on all-natural materials. I also adore the cute little mirrored tassel, which is removable and could be used as a decorative keychain or hung on a door handle. Nice touch!
Myzenhome Bone Neck Pillow ($30.95)
Material: 100% Organic Cotton Fabric and 100% Organic Kapok Filling
Dimensions: 14" x 6" x 4.5"
I am surprised at how much I like this neck pillow. I've never tried one before, but now that I have, I think I'd like to use one in every Shavasana! Instead of a single pressure point on the back of your skull, this pillow fully supports the curve of your neck and takes all the pressure off your head.
The pillow also doubles as a portable meditation seat and back support for the car. I love that it is made of 100% organic cotton and kapok, so it is eco-friendly and you know you're only putting the highest quality next to your head. Also, it's so small and light that I could see myself bringing it to yoga classes.
I liked this one specifically as a meditation cushion since it lifts my hips up in a very supportive way. I can't think of what else it would be used for, as it's not long enough to lie on or comfortably place under the knees. It's great that the case is cotton and the filling is organic buckwheat hull.
Unfortunately this one also attracts all kinds of lint and hair and there's no way to remove the case for washing, but if you're a dog or cat lover, you probably like me are used to hairs on pretty much everything you own. Overall, its unique shape offers comfort and makes it easy to store.
Halfmoon Cylindrical Pro Yoga Bolster ($85)
Material: 100% Cotton
Dimensions: 24" x 8"
The Halfmoon Cylindrical bolster has a pretty traditional size and feel, like what you find in most yoga studios. It's firm and perfect for placing under the knees during shavasana, or to lie on for a great heart opener. It has a nice, soft microfiber faux suede fabric.
What I'm not thrilled about is that it's not made from 100% eco-friendly materials, and the microfiber instantly attracts all kinds of pet hair. On the plus side, the drawstring closure makes taking the cover off for washing a cinch. And the stuffing is made from cotton, so actually the bulk of it is natural. All in all, it is a good, solid bolster that I would be happy to use in class.
Manduka Enlight Round Yoga Bolster ($58.50)
Material: 100% Microfiber Fabric with 30% Recycled Polyester, and 70% Polyester Filling
Dimensions: 27" x 9" W x 9" H
The Enlight by Manduka is the super light version of yoga bolsters. It feels like it weighs: next to nothing. It's not as firm as most bolsters so it gives more when you lie on it, which makes it a very comfortable back rest that opens the chest more gently than firmer bolsters, encouraging you to stay still longer.
Similar to the Halfmoon Pro, it is encased in microfiber, which is nice to feel, but is a magnet for dog hair or other debris. The zipper makes is pretty easy to take on and off for washing, though maybe not as easy as a drawstring. I think it's cool that Manduka used at least some recycled polyester for the filling, but would feel better about it if they had used some natural material instead. It's still very comfortable and supportive and the faux suede is soft.
Lily attended the Shambava School of Hatha Yoga in 2008 for her initial training, and in 2015 completed a Prana Vinyasa training led by Monica Mesa, developed by visionary Yogini Shiva Rea. Over the years she has participated in over 700 hours of teacher trainings. She teaches and practices in Durango, Colorado. More information at www.lilyrussoyoga.com