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6 Ways Using a Bolster in Yoga Encourages Health

stretching into itseated forward fold using a bolster

Beginners and life-long yoga practitioners love bolsters. Here are six reasons why using a bolster for yoga can inspire you to feel your best while you’re on the mat.

1. Bolsters encourage flexibility

  • Bolsters are often used in Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga. They allow adaptation and customization for difficult poses or any asana where you want extra support. As a result, a comfortable pose means a calmer mind and reduced stress and anxiety. 
  • Moreover, bolsters bring the ground up to you by providing a supportive surface. If you’ve ever felt like you want to really sink into a pose, try a bolster.  
  • In addition, bolsters can allow asanas like seated forward folds that stretch the hamstrings, lower back, and spine to feel at ease. To use a bolster in a forward fold, simply melt your torso over it, or stack one on top of the other for additional support. Gradually draw your attention inward and focus on your breath.
seated forward fold using a bolster
Adaptation using a bolster allows for a comfortable forward fold

2. Using a bolster helps relieve stress and tension

Bolsters ease muscle tension and help you to relax while providing support to your body. Specifically, they can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to help relieve stress on a deeper level. To illustrate, if you’ve had a long day and are feeling stressed and tired, using a bolster can allow that stress to melt away. Just as important, instead of focusing on perfecting a pose, allow your mind and body to truly relax. 

using a bolster for open heart chest pose

3. Bolsters help with mobility

  • Bolsters help with tricky, complicated poses. They can be placed under the knees, hips, neck, and legs. As you develop a practice, you may find that a bolster helps you adapt the pose in order to deepen it and achieve comfort that wasn’t possible before. They’re wonderful for those with limited mobility, tight hips or shoulders. 
  • Elevating the upper body delivers a burst of expansion and openness to the heart center. With support, deeper, fuller breaths can become effortless, which in turn can invigorate the whole body, mind, and spirit. 

4. Using a bolster helps improve your posture

Many of us are guilty of hunching over a desk all day. Consequently, poor posture affects us in many ways: reduced volume in our breath, tension in the shoulders, neck strain, and a caved-in chest. Because of this, we may live with daily tension headaches, stiff muscles and pain. 

  • Bolsters can help reduce this stiffness and encourage good posture, especially if you are practicing on your own and not at a yoga studio with an instructor. For instance, placed under your knees or hips, a bolster helps align the spine, which in turns helps prevent injury. 
knees on bolster
using a bolster can help reduce swelling and inflammation

5. Bolsters can help reduce swelling and inflammation

As anyone with chronic pain or inflammation knows, some poses are just too much of a stretch. Therefore, a comfy bolster can help fight inflammation-related swelling and stiffness due to sitting or standing, as one example. So with time and patience, they can help the body move freely. 

Want to learn more about yoga? Read about the 5 Best Practices for Beginning a Yoga Routine

6. Using a bolster helps with progress

In my classes, I encourage my students to listen to their bodies, and to use support when they need it. Online classes can make it difficult to help with alignment and adaptations. Therefore, a bolster can help with progress on a pose like Anahatasana, or Melting Heart. When you’re moving into this pose, keep a bolster in mind if you have difficulty lowering your chest to the ground, or have neck tension, too, and find it challenging to rest your chin on the ground. 

supported melting heart
supported melting heart pose – Uttana Shishosana

In conclusion, bolsters help support the body and increase mobility in all kinds of yoga poses. Just as important, they can boost energy and vitality and allow for deeper, more relaxed breathing. To sum up, try out a bolster and see for yourself! 

Rose Margaret Deniz is an artist, writer, and yoga instructor @roselayoga. The farm-girl turned expat has been gluten-free for over 12 years, and can be found in her kitchen whipping up seasonal meals for her bilingual family, growing herbs in her garden, painting and writing in her studio, and practicing yoga.