Bolsters are widely used  in yoga practice, especially in alignment focused yoga, restorative yoga and prenatal yoga. They help to passively stretch and open the body, releasing stress and tension and making the postures more accessible. Whether you are dealing with an injury or trying to improve your flexibility,  bolsters assist you in getting into a state of deep relaxation. 

There are two main types of bolsters – the round and the rectangular. Both  provide equal amount of comfort and ease, and the selection can be done based on which suits your body more.

How can I use the bolsters in my home practice?

There are multitude of ways you can use bolsters; below are three simple yet powerful ways they can assist you in deepening your personal practice.

Balasana - Child Pose

One of the most calming and relaxing forward folds, Balasana helps to gently release the muscles of the hips and the back. You can let the body weight sink deeply into the bolster and gain comfort from its support to move into deeper relaxation. 

  • Kneel on the mat and rest the buttocks between your heels, letting the big toes touch. Let the knees be far apart from the centre line.
  • Keep the bolster between the knees.
  • Inhale deeply and lengthen the upper torso. As you exhale, gently lie down on the bolster. 
  • Let the stomach and the entire upper torso rest on the bolster. 
  • You can keep your arms forward as shown in the image above or keep them on the sides close to the body.
  • If your buttocks start to lift off as you lie down in child’s pose,  modify it further by adding a cushion, bolster or a block under the buttocks. 
  • Stay in the pose anywhere between 1-3 minutes.

Upavistha Konasana-Wide angled seated forward Fold

Using Flamingo rectangular bolster for wide legged forward fold

Wide legged forward fold is inaccessible to most people due to the restrictions in and around the hip region, hence bolsters can really help the practitioners gain the benefits of this pose. It stretches the inner thigh, groins, hamstrings and releases the entire back of the body.

  • It is important that the pelvis tilts forward in seated forward bends; so  sit  towards the sit bones or the front of the buttocks.
  • If you have a tendency to sit on your tail bone and round the back, make sure you sit on a block or a zafu cushion to ensure correct posture .
  • Keep the legs as wide as possible. Let the top of the knees face towards the ceiling and the centre of the heel rest on the ground.
  • Keep the bolster as close to you as possible. 
  • Elongate the torso for maximum length on an inhalation
  • On an exhalation, lie down on the bolster, with the belly also resting on the bolster.
  •  If you cannot fold completely into the bolster, place blocks lengthwise under the bolster  as shown in the image above. 
  • Ensure that the knees and the feet don’t fall in or out too much.
  • You can rest your cheek on the bolster and lay the arms by the sides or forward.
  • Stay in the pose anywhere between 1-3 minutes.

Supported back bends/Heart Opening postures

Shavasana with Flamingo Yoga Props

We spend considerable amount of time slouched over laptops or phones resulting in tightness across the chest and shoulders. This can adversely affect not only the posture, but also the breathing pattern. Bolsters help to ease that tightness across the chest and shoulders, align the spine and  help to open the heart centre.

  • Place the bolster on the mat. With an inhalation, lengthen the torso to elongate the spine and then  lie down with the back on the bolster. Ensure that your lower back is well supported by the bolster.
  • It  is important to keep the spine elongated and not compressed. If you feel uncomfortable, gently shift your position to align the spine along the bolster.
  • If you feel discomfort along your lower back, placing a block or a zafu cushion under your buttocks will help by preventing over arching of the lower back.
  • The legs can be placed in Baddhakonasana as shown in the image below, with the soles of the feet touching and the knees towards the side.

  • Alternatively, keep the legs straight with another bolster under the knees to help ease the tension away from the hamstrings. 
  • Add an eye pillow to cover the eyes and maybe a  breathable cotton blanket to cover the body to ensure you remain relaxed throughout.
  • Stay in the pose anywhere between 1-3 minutes.

You can use a round or a rectangular bolster for any of the above postures.  If you are unsure or are using bolsters for the first time, I recommend starting with the rectangular bolster.

Many people ask me the question, if pillows or cushions can be used for the restorative postures. Yoga bolsters are made with the purpose of yoga asanas in mind and they come with the right amount of firmness and support for the body. Using a pillow, especially in supported backbends, can cause more harm, as they would not retain its form and can hurt the lower back. It is a good idea to invest in a good yoga bolster and they do last for a very long period of time. 

 

Contributed by:

Hema Laxman

ERYT200, RYT500, YACEP

Owner, Flamingo Yoga & Wellness

Browse for bolsters online.

Seven colors of rectangular bolsters are available in Dubai
Rectangular bolsters
Round Bolsters

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