If you’re not currently using a yoga bolster in your current yoga practice…please try one out immediately! While yoga blocks can be used instead of a bolster, a yoga bolster is just so much more comfortable. It will encourage you to relax more, to be comfy, and find ease in your body in a way that yoga blocks don’t feel as great for. I’m here to give you the need-to-know on bolsters used for yoga and how to use a yoga bolster so that you can incorporate them into your next class and see the difference for yourself!
What is a yoga bolster?
A yoga bolster is a long cushion or pillow that is used to add support to a number of yoga poses. Yoga bolsters come in either round or rectangular shapes and in varying kinds of firmness, based on your preference, but most tend to be firmer as they are providing support. Mini bolsters can also be found too which are great to replace multiple uses for a block.
What are yoga bolsters used for?
Yoga bolsters are used to provide support, add cushioning, and assist in forward folds, and back bends. Since a yoga bolster is firm, it gives practitioners the opportunity not only to relax into the bolster, but also to increase flexibility, completely release, and find full relaxation. This is why you’ll find bolsters used most frequently in yin yoga, restorative yoga, and pregnancy yoga classes.
Mini Yoga Workshop: Ways to Use a Bolster Demonstrated!
Bolster Yoga Poses
Offering a mix of yin yoga poses with a bolster and restorative poses with a bolster, there’s no doubt that you’ll find a pose here that will feel extra amazing with this new addition to your yoga props.
Recommended bolster: I personally use and love the Half Moon cylindrical linen bolster.
Come into a wide-legged child’s pose. Place a bolster between your legs, directly out in front of you. Lean forward so that your body and head come to rest on the bolster. Make any adjustments that feel good. This could be moving the bolster away from your groin so that your belly isn’t resting on it and so you can take deeper breaths. Another option is to bring the bolster closer to your groin so that you sit on the bolster and then place a block under your head to extend the length of the bolster.
Alternatively, place the bolster behind your hamstrings, resting on your calves and sit back on it. This is ideal for those with tight hamstrings that have difficulty finding comfort in child’s pose.
Instead of sitting on a block in medtiation pose, switch it out for something comfier, like a bolster to sit on. Adjust your sit bones into a comfortable position so that your hips are slightly tilted forward, giving more space for your hips and to help lengthen your spine.
Add a cozy chest opener to your reclined butterfly by placing a bolster at the base of your spine, lengthwise. Lay back onto the bolster and bring your legs into a diamond shape. Allow your arms to open as your spine and head are supported and your chest opens.
Ditch the blocks for an extra comfy fish that is just like reclined butterfly. Place the bolster at the base of your spine lengthwise and then lay back to be fully supported.
Supported Legs Up the Wall/Waterfall Pose
Get some assistance with keeping your legs in the air by placing a bolster under your hips to lift and tilt them. Place your bolster horizontally along the wall or across your mat and tuck it under your hips until your legs comfortably sit in the air or against the wall.
Seated Forward Fold/Caterpillar Pose
A bolster can be used three ways in seated forward fold/caterpillar in yin. A common way is to place the bolster lengthwise between or on your legs. Fold over the bolster and rest your body to relax onto the bolster. Another way is to prop the bolster up so that one end meets the mat, and the other on your forehead. Rest into the bolster and adjust as you deepen into the pose. Lastly, use a bolster horizontally and sit on it so that your hips naturally tilt forward.
Wide Legged Forward Fold/Dragonfly Pose
Just like in a seated forward fold, you can place the bolster on the ground in front of you, lengthwise, and fold over it to rest your body. In yin, this pose in referred to as dragonfly, and has the option to prop the bottom of the bolster on the ground and your head on the other end so that the bolster is at an angle and you’re supported by it in a more relaxed forward hold.
For a more restorative version of bridge, place a bolster horizontally under your hips and keep your feet planted on the floor or extend your legs for a deeper back bend.
Hero Pose/Saddle Pose
A great prop to use in hero is a bolster because it helps to open your hips by elevating them as well as gives you a cushion to fold back on. In yin, this pose is called saddle, and there are a few ways a bolster can be used in hero pose. One way is to take it lengthwise between your legs to sit on it and then lean back onto the bolster or simply place your hands on the ground. Secondly, you can place the bolster horizontally behind you to place your elbows on for a cushion when you lean back.
Instead of a block, switch it out for a bolster in reclined twist. One option is to place the bolster between your legs if both legs are towards your chest. A second option is to place the bolster on the ground vertically and place your top leg, with your bottom leg extended, onto the bolster for support.
Supported Pigeon Pose/Swan Pose
Pigeon pose in yang style classes, or swan in yin, lends itself in a few ways to use a bolster. One common way is to place the bolster lengthwise in front of your front shin and lean forward onto the bolster to support your upper body. A second way is to place the bolster under the glute of the leg with the bend. This brings the ground to you and allows you to relax more into the pose.
Just like pigeon pose, in deer pose you can place a bolster lengthwise out from your shin and fold your upper body over the bolster. It may feel best to fold straight forward or on an angle to either side. Adjust the bolster as necessary for comfort.
Puppy Pose/Melting Heart Pose
Use a bolster in puppy pose or melting heart pose to bring the ground closer to you or to deepen the shoulder stretch. To bring the ground closer, place the bolster horizontally under your chest, and allow yourself to be supported as you extend your arms forward. Deepen the shoulder stretch by placing the bolster horizontally under your extended arms so that your hands and wrists rest on the bolster and your chest has more space to melt towards the mat.
Savasana can be made extra comfy by easing your lower back. Place a bolster horizontally under your knees, lay back, and be at ease.