Have you noticed them - clustered together at the back of the yoga studio like a friendly fleet of overstuffed pillows, quietly waiting to join you on the mat?
The bolsters, of course!
Oh yes, the bolsters...
Perhaps the most famous and best loved member of the yoga prop family, the humble bolster is the perfect accompaniment to a restorative yoga practice. This passive style of yoga offers an invitation into complete and delicious surrender; a place where tight muscles unfurl, cluttered minds clear and emotions rebalance. Ahhhh….
A complete restorative yoga session aims to move the spine in all directions - via gentle backbends, twists, forward bends and inversions achieved via a suite of specialised postures.
This is time for the bolster to shine! Rather than using physical effort to hold the poses, a squishy, yet firm bolster (or sometimes more than one) is placed over, under or alongside the body to lovingly and securely hold it in place. Once held, the body begins to melt, and sends a green light to the mind to do the same. This is where the deep, healing magic of restorative yoga happens.
With many parts to play on the restorative journey, the bolster is a studio favourite. Plus, with so many benefits, it’s worth having a bolster for your home yoga practice, too.
To understand this big softie of a prop a little better, we’ve listed 8 wonderful qualities a bolster brings to your practice
Are you guilty of hunching up, tinkering over a desk or tightly gripping a steering wheel all day? (These days, who isn’t?) Sloppy posture creates tension and roundedness in the shoulders, the neck struggles to hold a head heavy with thoughts and the chest caves in around the heart. Even a short time scrunched up like this can lead to stiff muscles, pain and even headache. Not to mention, it’s hard for the lungs to draw in a full breath of energy-boosting air.
Elevating the upper body over a bolster delivers expansion and openness to the heart centre. Once here, fuller, deeper breaths become effortless - a perfect antidote to a restrictive, crumpled posture.
Explore OPENNESS in Matsyasana
Use the bolster to create spaciousness around the upper torso. With this placement, shoulders broaden and glide away from the midline, allowing the heart to blossom open. Every new breath is free to inflate the lungs, gifting fresh energy to enliven the whole body, mind and spirit.
Too tired to practice yoga? Together, restorative yoga and a bolster have got you covered! Backbends create warmth and energy, but when your tank is running low it’s hard to muster the strength to maintain the shape. Ask a comfy bolster to do the work for you - all that’s left to do is relax and soak up the benefits.
Explore ENERGY in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Slide a bolster under the sacrum to hold it in place, a little higher than the hips. Allow the pelvis and sacrum to sink into the softness of the support for a deliciously refreshing time-out.
Ever experienced the unsettling combination of jumpy limbs and scattered thoughts? Chances are you are feeling ungrounded, and quite literally need to come back down to earth!
Explore GROUNDING in Savasana
Use the comfortable weight of a bolster to anchor the biggest bones in the body - the femurs. Rest it across the thighs and wait patiently for the legs to ungrip and gently descend, as feelings of flightiness fade away.
Restorative yoga uses props to bring the ground to the body, rather than vice versa. In this practice there is no straining, forcing or contorting to push the body where it is not ready to go. Rather, the practice, via the use of props, happily accepts where the body is right now.
Filling this gap between floor and body makes several key poses accessible to the stiffest of bodies. Steady, broad contact points are vital to feel secure - use a bolster to take up any negative space, permitting the whole body to release into the earth, feeling deeply supported, warm and safe.
Explore SUPPORT in Savasana
Slide a bolster under the knees so the legs can dissolve into the floor. This placement also dilutes any pressure from a cranky lower back.
Who doesn’t need a warm, supportive hug every now and again? When you simply want to feel better, your bolster can provide a warm and welcome embrace. (Ok, I’ll admit it’s not as good as a human hug, but it’s pretty good. And on the up-side, your bolster won’t mind if you cry or get angry!)
Explore NURTURING in Balasana
Enhance the cosy, comforting qualities of balasana (child’s pose) for deep emotional understanding and reassurance that everything will be OK. Snuggle up like a child, turn your back and let the world slide on by.
Use your bolster as a seat to help bring the bones of the lower body into optimal alignment. Plus, a bolster is so comfy, so you’ll likely be able to maintain your seated posture for much longer than if sitting on a hard floor.
Explore ALIGNMENT in Sukhasana and Virasana
Sitting atop a bolster for meditation or pranayama practice makes good alignment easy to achieve and maintain.
In Sukhasana, settle the sit bones toward the front edge of the bolster. Check that the knees fall slightly lower than the hips. Line your shoulders up over the hips, and allow the belly to breathe easily.
If virasana is more your style, use the bolster to raise your seat, taking a little pressure off the knees.
Restorative yoga advocates acceptance and contentment over push and ambition. Rather than risk injury from overstretching, bring the floor closer to you with the aid of a bolster.
Explore FLEXIBILITY in Upavista Konasana
Place bolster (or two, or three!) just ahead of you as a soft landing pad for either for the hands or head. Little by little, your flexibility will increase. Each time you practice this pose, try moving the bolsters further away to accommodate your new-found stretchiness.
8. Explore PERSPECTIVE in Viparita Karani
In this gently revitalising pose, the bolster provides yielding support for the sacrum to broaden into while the leg bones safely descend. Going upside down acts as a soothing balm for the whole system, and invites us to see things from a new perspective.
Choosing the right bolster for you
Our bolsters come in 2 shapes - rectangular and round.
Cylindrical bolsters are a little narrower, and feel particularly delightful under the body in backbends.
As they are wider, the rectangular option will support both the length and width of the back more in lying down asanas.
More compact and lighter, our rectangular zafu meditation cushions serve as a perfect wee seat for meditation, and provide a mild lift in supported backbends.
Want to work on your breathing? Pop this slim-line bolster under the chest to encourage full, deep, energy-boosting breaths.
Wave ‘hello’ to this gently curved, versatile prop. Our lightweight wave cushion will happily hold you in chest opening poses, and also makes a comfy seat or head rest.
How to care for your bolster
To help preserve the beautiful print or our yoga props we recommend that you hand wash them in cold water with a mild soap. For plain colours, machine wash on cold
Stretch Now bolsters blend fresh, funky designs with quality organic textiles and woven fabrics. These beauties not only look sensational but more importantly are made ethically and responsibly too.