Some of us have trouble practicing certain yoga poses due to a lack of flexibility, holding the position and other reasons. If this is the case yoga teacher training teaches us how to use props to make the poses easier to do and how to incorporate them. Someone who is flexible may opt to use a bolster because it allows additional support and comfort making your yoga practice more beneficial.
One of the most popular props for yoga are yoga bolsters. These are types of cushions or pillows which are used in practicing yoga. Yoga bolsters are made to support and relieve tension in your neck, back, abdomen and legs while you are performing different kinds of postures. These bolsters are firm and provide extra cushioning to your back and lower body while you practice asanas in the supine position. They give you the ability to stretch out your body completely and align your spine.
3 Different Varieties of Bolsters
There are three different kinds of bolsters available to you such as:
- Cylindrical Bolsters- these are firmly packed and are usually heavier and bigger than rectangular and Pranayama bolsters. They help relieve tension that occurs in your neck, knees and ankles. When placed under your knees they help lengthen your lower back region which allows for you to have deeper breathing. Cylindrical bolsters also give support and comfort which provides the help to increase your stretches.
- Rectangular Bolsters- these have a flat surface and provide stability to the user. This style of bolster has curved sides which offer comfort and support for the spinal stretches and restorative postures.
- Breathing Bolsters- these are also referred to as Pranayama bolsters, and are used to aid the breathing. This bolster supports the spine and allows you to have slower and deeper breathing. It is narrower than the rectangular bolster and when placed on the spine it supports the longer muscles that run on its sides. This helps relax you completely and lets the chest expand fully.
Bolster Poses in Yoga
Bolster poses in yoga practice allow you to relax into a pose deeper by providing more support and comfort. Some poses are more beneficial if you have a bolster for that extra support. Yoga teachers can guide you through a class session and teach you how to use one most effectively.
Half Frog Pose
This pose begins as you lie on your stomach on your yoga mat. Taking both hands, press down into the floor while raising your upper torso off the floor. Slide a bolster under your lower rib section. Slowly, bend your left knee while supporting yourself with your right hand resting on the floor. Then, reach back with your left hand and grab your left foot. Slowly, bring your left foot toward your left buttock while touching your foot to your buttock. Pull your left foot a little bit ahead of your buttock and toward the floor. Now adjust your shoulders so that they are squared with the front of your mat. Spend at least two minutes in this pose and then return to a neutral pose and repeat with other side.
Begin this pose by lying on your back on your yoga mat. Slowly bend your knees and slide both feet toward your buttocks keeping them hip-width apart. Press both heels into the floor and lift your torso up off the floor, keeping only your feet, shoulders and head on the floor. Slide a bolster under your elevated back. Then rest your arms by your sides and put your chin down against your chest. Keep pressing your heels into the floor as you maintain your lift. Breathe slowly and stay in this pose for up to five minutes.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Begin this pose in a seated position on the floor with your legs stretch out in front of you. Turn your feet outward and bring the soles of your feet together. Continue to slide your feet toward your pelvis until they are about a foot away. Put the bolster under each of your knees and lie back onto the floor. Make sure to angle your tailbone down towards your feet and then put another bolster under your neck. You can maneuver the bolster lengthwise so that it can support your lower spine to your head. Take up to five minutes in this pose.
Begin this pose on the floor with your legs stretched out and your arms relaxed by your sides. Angle your tailbone under and stretch your lower torso and legs. Slide a bolster lengthwise under your back and head. Stretch your torso away from the waist and your head away from your shoulders. Turn both palms up and begin relaxing your body from your feet all the way up to your head. Breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm and stay in this pose as long as necessary.
Choosing the right Yoga bolster is a personal choice and depends on how you are going to use it. Yoga teacher training guides you into laying on the ground on a hard surface and relax. Make a mental note of the parts of your body that are not touching the ground. Depending on your result this may help guide you into choosing the right bolster so that your body gets the most beneficial yoga teaching experience.