People all over the world practice yoga regularly. However, some of the positions, or asanas, can be difficult to achieve. There are props that people can use to assist their form and achieve asana comfortably and correctly. Yoga bolsters have become a popular aid for many people, and they have started to incorporate yoga bolsters in their daily lives.
Yoga bolsters are meant to support your body during yoga and meditation. They help relax the body and aid with breathing during practice. Bolsters can also be used as sleep aids outside of practice before and during sleep.
Originating in India, thousands of years ago, yoga was developed to gain discipline, control of the body and mind, and philosophy. It wasn’t until fairly recently that adaptations were used to help people practice yoga and make yoga’s intentions achievable for everyone.
The Purpose of Yoga Bolsters
Once yoga started to become popular throughout the world, yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar noticed that students were having difficulties with achieving asanas correctly. He developed and designed his practice that uses different props such as belts, blocks, and blankets. In 1975, he created the yoga bolster.
The yoga bolster was designed to give support and expand a person’s body. With support and expansion, it is easier to breathe and focus on asanas and meditation. Yoga bolsters have also been known to help people achieve more difficult asanas during Vinyasa.
Iyengar used yoga bolsters and other props to help people feel the intention of gaining control of the body and mind. His yoga method prioritizes correct body alignment and encourages the usage of props, such as bolsters, to help achieve alignment. Several other yoga methods have incorporated using props after seeing success with Iyengar’s way.
Yoga bolsters come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They also come in a variety of fillings. Research and try out different yoga bolsters to find which one is the right one for you. Different fillings affect the firmness, weight, and sturdiness of the yoga bolster. You may also find that there are different yoga bolsters to use for different reasons.
Maris Aylward has an excellent video showing how to use different yoga bolsters in practice.
Meditation and Relaxation
Meditating can be difficult enough to stop our minds and getting into the moment. You can limit your distractions by sitting in a quiet room, turning off your phone, and using a guided meditation. The one distraction that can be difficult to put at bay is discomfort.
Meditation shouldn’t be painful to the body. Meditation sessions can last from 5 minutes to an hour or longer, but remaining in the same position can be difficult and become uncomfortable at times. Yoga bolsters are often used during meditation and relaxation to prevent discomfort and tension.
You can meditate in whatever asana feels comfortable for you. The goal of meditation is to focus on an intention and to keep your mind alert. Having a yoga bolster will help in most asanas during meditation and pranayama (breath practice). There are even light-weight yoga bolsters designed to aid in pranayama.
- Sukhasana or Easy Pose is often used for meditation. Sitting on your yoga bolster will open your hips further and help keep your spine aligned.
- Shavasana or Corpse Pose is also used frequently in meditation and at the end of yoga for restoration. When using a yoga bolster in Shavasana, have it aligned with the curve in your lower spine to open it up and reduce compression.
During and After Yoga Practice
Practicing yoga can make your body tired. Many yoga instructors warn you during classes that you shouldn’t feel the stretches to the point of pain and fatigue. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and you will still feel something.
At the end of any workout or your body doing a lot of activity, you should always do a cool down to help your body heal and avoid injury. This is especially true with yoga practice. Doing Shavasana and its moderations with a yoga bolster will help your restoration feel much better without straining your lower back or other parts of your body.
Some great restorative asanas that you can use a yoga bolster with are:
- Balasana or Child’s Pose is a great way to lengthen your spine from top to bottom. Using a yoga bolster under your chest will help support your weight and help balance. It will also protect your cervical spine.
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or One-Legged King Pigeon Pose is also an excellent restorative asana. It helps open the hips and lengthen the spine and legs. It can be very strenuous on the body, and using a yoga bolster under your chest as an aid will help make the asana feel more comfortable during restoration.
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge Pose is a great way to open the chest and abdomen after a yoga session. You can use a yoga bolster in this asana under your lower back for support, especially if your body is feeling fatigued after your session.
- Viparita Karani or Legs up on the Wall Pose is wonderful to do after any workout when you use your legs or after a long day. Placing your yoga bolster underneath your hips to stretch your lower spine will help you do this asana effortlessly.
Here is a great restorative yoga routine to use after practice that shows how to use a bolster in different asanas. You can also use a yoga bolster during pratikriyasana, or counterposes, to support yourself and bring the body back to balance.
Sleeping With a Yoga Bolster
Bolsters have been used in the medical field for many years to help prop people up to prevent bedsores. Bolsters are also recommended by many doctors to aid with sleep, such as using one to keep your knees separated if you’re a side sleeper and using one to lift your upper body if you have acid reflux.
Bolster pillows are designed to be firmer than regular pillows so they can sustain more weight and pressure. This gives better support to the person lying on it. Yoga bolsters are designed similarly and will give anyone the support they need while sleeping.
Some conditions that sleeping with a yoga bolster can help are:
- Acid reflux
- Poor posture
- Muscle tension
- Poor blood circulation
- Sleep apnea
Before sleeping with a yoga bolster for any reason, you should speak with your doctor for their recommendations for dealing with your symptoms. Your doctor will also be able to instruct you on placement and how you should feel while laying with your yoga bolster.
While it is okay to use a yoga bolster while sleeping, you should have one dedicated to the bed if you are also using a yoga bolster in practice and meditation. During practice and meditation, you can sweat and leave bacteria and residue that you don’t want to bring into bed with you. This is also very important if you practice yoga at a studio and bring your bolster with you.
Improving Quality of Sleep
While using a yoga bolster to help during practice, meditation, and sleep, there are also benefits for using a yoga bolster with practice before sleep. There are different sequences you can follow with breath practice and yoga bolster to improve your sleep quality.
The asanas in sequences to improve sleep quality are used to help increase relaxation, regulate breathing, and reduce blood pressure. Here’s a great video for a sequence to help you sleep better at night. You can also do these in your bed, using your dedicated yoga bolster for bed.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years and has brought many benefits to people who practice it around the world. Since the invention of the yoga bolsters 45 years ago, people have been able to practice yoga in their homes and yoga studios comfortably. Yoga bolsters are also great outside of the studio and practice. With the raised awareness of ergonomic support at desks and in bed, yoga bolsters have been incorporated in adding support for many sleepers. You can even use your yoga bolster before bed in practice to help you sleep better at night.