Bolster Guide

What is a bolster?

Traditional bolster pillows have been around a long time. A bolster is a long, firm, narrow, often cylindrical cushion or pillow that is placed under other pillows for support on a bed or a sofa. You can still buy bolster pillows to provide greater support for both day and night today.

So – more specifically – what is a yoga bolster?

A yoga bolster is a popular yoga accessory used to provide comfort, support poses and increase stretching during restorative postures and deep breathing exercises. Most of the yoga accessories that we consider popular now like the yoga bolster weren’t really used much within a yoga practice until the 1960’s, when yoga teachers such as B.K.S. Iyengar noticed that many of their students had trouble maintaining proper posture in certain poses due to injury or lack of flexibility. Iyengar therefore developed and introduced props and equipment to help people access poses with greater comfort and better form.

What is a yoga bolster used for?

Bolsters are widely used in restorative yoga classes. A bolster can be placed under various parts of the body for firm yet comfortable support to encourage total release and relaxation. Restorative yoga can have a deeply soothing effect on the mind and nervous system – think of a bolster as restorative yoga’s best friend!

A bolster is particularly useful in pregnancy yoga and can also be super helpful for anyone working with injuries or specific conditions – basically, a bolster offers support to any part of the body that requires more support.

Our go-to poses using a bolster…

The wonderful thing about bolsters (and all yoga props) is that there are infinite ways in which they can be used. As always, it is best to be led by how you feel, rather than what a shape or pose looks like.

However, here are a few places to get started. Even just thinking about it makes us soften a little…

Balasana – child’s pose

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Kneel on the floor and then widen your knees apart, so the bolster can sit lengthways and snugly in between your thighs. Slowly, fold your torso over the bolster and let your head turn to one side.

  • Let your arms drape either side of the bolster – it might even be nice to let your hands wrap underneath the bolster as if you were giving it a little hug. Either way, find a version that lets your shoulders rest.
  • Notice your breath and let your front body soften into the support of the bolster.
  • After 5 minutes or so, let your head turn to the other side

Modifications:

  • If there is lots of space between your heels and the backs of your thighs or you have any knee pain, try placing a folded blanket or even another bolster between the backs of your thighs and calves.
  • If your head/neck doesn’t rest comfortably on the bolster, try placing a folded blanket underneath your head to act as a little pillow.
  • You may also wish to try a wide leg version

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TOP TIP: For the above, we recommend our classic bolster made from recron and a 100% cotton cover.

Sukhasana – easy pose

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Oh the irony! Sukhasana is translated as ‘easy pose’ and yet sitting comfortably can be one the most challenging aspects of our yoga practice! A bolster can be a beautiful addition to a regular meditation practice to support the body in comfortably sitting still.

  • Come to sit cross-legged on your bolster. You can sit directly on top of it or you can sit slightly forwards so that your sit bones roll over the edge of the bolster and your pelvis tilts forwards.
  • Let your hands rest softly somewhere on your thighs or knees.
  • Feel the weight of your pelvis and sit bones drop into the support of your bolster.
  • Let the crown of your head lift lightly towards the sky. Notice the back of your neck lengthen and feel your spine grow tall.
  • Place your awareness on your breath. Simply watch your inhale and your exhale, noticing the rise and fall or your belly and chest.
  • Sit for as long as feels appropriate or comfortable for you.

Modifications:

  • If you find your knees are very high away from the floor and it still feels uncomfortable to sit upright, try rolling up two blankets so they are in a short/fat sausage shape and place them underneath your knees for additional support.

TOP TIP: Try a rectangular bolster – the flatter surface area is perfect for sitting.

Viparita Karani – Legs up the wall pose

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Sit sideways against a wall with your right hip and right shoulder gently touching the wall. Carefully in one smooth movement, swing your legs up the wall and allow your back and head to come to rest flat on the ground.

  • If you have moved away from the wall, shuffle yourself forwards slightly so that your sitting bones are as close to the wall as possible.
  • Press your feet into the wall and lift your pelvis up so you can slide your bolster underneath your pelvis.
  • Let your pelvis nestle into the bolster and extend the legs straight up the wall
  • Allow your arms/hands come to rest somewhere that feels comfortable. The arms could be in a T-shape or overhead or just gently rest the hands on the belly.
  • Stay here for as long as you wish – we suggest 10-15 minutes initially.

Modifications:

  • Bend the knees slightly if the hamstrings are tight.

TOP TIP: Our buckwheat bolster is super versatile and will mould to your body shape.

The Small Bolster – The Queen of Versatility

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One of our favourite new additions to the Yogamatters range is this small sized printed bolster from the Ocean Flower Collection. The print inspiration draws on the traditional wood block prints of India and it looks equally as pretty in a yoga studio or at home.

All good things come in small packages and at 50cm length x 14.5 diameter, this small bolster is no exception. Made with a 100% cotton cover and filled with buckwheat filling, it is designed to mould to the contours of the body and support deep relaxation.

Here are some of our top versatile ways to use it:
– A supportive seat in Easy Pose, as described above or sitting directly on top with the bolster lengthways.
– Large bolsters are often placed underneath the knees to support the lower back in savasana but we love using our small bolster to support underneath the ankles as well as underneath the wrists.
– Explore using the smaller bolster in supine chest-opening poses such as Bound Angle Pose.

How do I know which bolster is right for me?

Bolsters come in variety of shapes and sizes and it isn’t always easy to know which bolster is right for you. Firstly, identify what you want it for: is it for meditation? Restorative yoga?

Speak with a yoga teacher or even visit a yoga studio such as triyoga to try the Yogamatters bolsters out for yourself. If you have an injury or are working with a particular condition, again, check in your yoga teacher to find the perfect match.

Now onto the practicalities…when choosing a bolster, there are five things that you need to consider: size, shape, weight, filling and colour or pattern.

Yoga bolsters generally come in three basic shapes: cylindrical, rectangular and lean. You’ll need to decide which is best for your particular needs.

Size matters too. Some are much longer and bigger than others. You’ll need to check the size dimensions before making a choice. Bolsters vary greatly in weight, depending on what they are filled with. If you are carrying a bolster to class with you, the weight may be an important factor for you to consider.

Bolsters contains a variety of fillings for a variety of reasons. You’ll need to do your research, because each filling acts in a different way and needs to be cared for in a different way. The bolsters that are stocked by Yogamatters contain one of three different fillings: recron, buckwheat and a fibre-fill made from 30% recycled polyester fibre. Recron® Fibrefill is a specially engineered hollow polyester fibre that is light, soft and comfortable. Manduka has developed a long-lasting fibre-fill made from 30% recycled polyester fibre for its bolsters. Buckwheat hulls are used as a filling for a variety of upholstered goods as a durable, natural alternative to more synthetic filling materials.

The final consideration is colour and pattern. For some, this selection will be paramount! For others, not so much. The good news is that there are plenty of colourways to choose from.

Caring for your bolster

As with all yoga equipment, it’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions about how to care for your bolster. The majority of the bolsters in the Yogamatters range come fitted with a zip so you can actually remove the cover to wash it. It’s recommended that you wash the cover on a cool cycle at 30° to prevent shrinking and all bolster covers should be hang dried and not dried in a dryer.

The Yogamatters standard round bolsters and rectangular bolsters are filled with recron which is very similar to cotton. This material holds its shape and is quite firm. The buckwheat bolster has small kernels of buckwheat inside and is therefore more malleable, moulding to your shape. Buckwheat is heavier than the recron. It’s also possible to remove some of the filling whether it is recron or kernels if your bolster is too firm for you.

Bolsters beyond the mat…

When it comes to yoga clothes, we love nothing more than a wardrobe that can take us from the studio to the shops. And we must admit, we feel the same about bolsters too. We use them as beautiful additions to our home: from spare seating in the lounge to pretty decoration on our beds.

There are so many beautiful options and patterns that can uplift a room and the best thing about having them on display is that we are more likely to use them for a quick meditation or 10 mins of relaxation.

Bolsters available at yogamatters.com

 

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Yogamatters Bolster

£38

Size: 65cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 3.4kg

This cylindrical bolster is ideal for restorative yoga –

  • for placing underneath knees to release the lower back and alleviate tension throughout the body
  • for providing support during deep hip opening poses
  • as a prop to allow for asana alternatives

The Yogamatters bolsters come in a selection of vibrant colours with a long-lasting 100% organic cotton cover that is removable and machine washable. The bolsters also have a strong carry handle.

This cylindrical bolster is filled with recron, which guarantees firmness throughout use whilst giving gentle and comfortable support.

Yogamatters Ocean Flower Small Bolster

£35

Size: 50cm length x 14.5 diameter

Weight: 1.8kg

Find breathing space with the small printed bolster from the Yogamatters Ocean Flower Collection which draws inspiration from the traditional wood block prints of India.

Filled with organic buckwheat hulls, the small bolster moulds to the contours of your body, encouraging complete release and relaxation into your yoga asana.

 

 

 

 

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Yogamatters Organic Cotton Buckwheat Bolster

£40

Size: 63cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 4.5kg

Find breathing space with the natural bolster from the Yogamatters Organic Cotton Collection. Made from 100% certified organic cotton, earth friendly and the ethical choice for your yoga practice.

Filled with organic buckwheat hulls, the bolster moulds to the contours of your body, encouraging complete release and relaxation into your yoga asana.

Yogamatters Silver Trim Bolster

£40

Size: 63cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 4.5 kg

The Yogamatters Silver Trim Bolster is one of our favourite props for any style of yoga or meditation practice. Available in three rich colours, all embellished with traditional Indian silver trim, inspired by the Indian Silversmith’s unique and mystical Indian silver decorations.

The cylindrical shape makes it perfect for placing underneath knees to release the lower back and alleviate tension throughout the body. It is also ideal for providing support during deep hip opening poses and as a prop to allow for asana alternatives.

 

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Yogamatters Rectangular Bolster

£38

Size: 63cm x 30cm x 15cm

Weight: 2.3kg

This rectangular variation of the classic cylindrical bolster offers greater width and a flatter surface for supine postures.The long, flat surface supports the whole back and can also be used to raise the hips in sitting postures and for support in shoulder stand variations.

Rectangular bolsters are generally considered safer for use in pregnancy yoga, as they offer cushioning but are safer for the back than a cylindrical bolster.

The Yogamatters rectangular bolster is filled with recron and comes with a machine-washable outer cover and a useful carrying handle, making it ideal for both studio and home use.

 

Yogamatters Buckwheat Bolster

£36

Size: 61cm x 20cm diameter

Weight: 4.5kg

The Yogamatters buckwheat bolster is slightly smaller in size than the standard cylindrical bolster. This cylindrical bolster is filled with sturdy buckwheat hulls that don’t break down over time, so that the bolster can withstand much more pressure and stay firmer for longer. Having said that, the nature of the buckwheat filling means that these bolsters are more malleable and will mould to your body shape every time you do a posture.

The removable outer cover is made from 100% organic cotton and features a strong zip covering a natural cotton inner and a convenient handle for easy carrying.

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Manduka Enlight Round Bolster

£59

Size: 69cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 2kg

Made in USA, the Enlight round bolster from Manduka is a lightweight, classic, round bolster featuring a resilient, long-lasting fibre-fill made from 30% recycled polyester fibre. This creates a firm cushion that provides superior support.

The removable fabric cover is a soft, plush, absorbent eQua micro-fibre that keeps you dry and comfortable. The convenient, sturdy, easy-carry handle has a faux-suede logo detail.

Manduka Enlight Rectangular Bolster

£54

Size: 15cm x 30.5cm x 67cm

Weight: 1.8kg

The Enlight rectangular bolster from Manduka is popular and functional.

The core is a resilient, long lasting fibre-fill that is 30% recycled polyester fibre, which is super lightweight, meaning that this bolster weighs in at less than 2kg.

The removable outer microfibre cover is made with the eQua® microfibre fabric, a recyclable synthetic material, engineered for performance & durability. The hidden zipper construction creates a smooth, seamless finish.

 

 

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Manduka Enlight Lean Bolster

£44

Size: 66 cm x 18 cm x 8 cm

Weight: 1.6kg

The Enlight lean bolster is, as the name suggests, the most compact and lightweight of the Manduka bolsters.

As with the other Manduka Enlight bolsters, this lean bolster features the 30% recycled polyester fibre core and the soft, plush, absorbent eQua micro-fibre fabric cover.

This thin bolster is ideal for those who need that little bit of extra support to stretch more effectively in restorative poses without the risk of over-stretching and causing injury.

Yogamatters Bolster with Gold Trim

£38

Size: 65cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 3.4kg

This gorgeous bolster with traditional Indian gold trim is identical in every way to the Yogamatters cylindrical bolster above, except that it is decorated with an attractive gold trim pattern (which could vary slightly from the one shown in the product image) at each end.

 

Made in India, the bolster is filled with recron with a cover available in an array of rich colours that is made from 100% Global Organic Textile Standard Certified cotton.

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Yogamatters Bandha Ikat Buckwheat Bolster 

£40

Size: 65cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 4.5kg

Filled with organic buckwheat hulls, our striking Bandha Ikat buckwheat bolster is the inspired choice for your yoga practice.

Unlike in appearance and design to any other Ikat fabric, Bandha Ikat has been termed as ‘Poetry of the Loom’ because of its imaginative and meticulously detailed design process. A popular fabric for sarees, Bandha Ikat designs employ flowing, curvilinear forms.

Ikat refers to the intricate dyeing process whereby bundles of yarn are wrapped tightly together and dyed repeatedly to create the desired pattern. Once dyed and dried, the yarns are painstakingly lined up by the weaver on the loom to form the unique pattern.

Yogamatters Natural Linen Buckwheat Bolster

£45

Size: 63cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 4.5 kg

Blending stripped back sophistication with rustic charm, our new linen collection has been specifically designed with consideration for the natural environment.

Due to the natural buckwheat filling, our bolster will mould to your body shape every time you use it.

  • made without external hardware
  • made from undyed, washed 100% natural linen
  • a beautiful accessory for your home to grace your bed or your sofa when not in use
  • the perfect prop to accompany the Natural Yogamatters Eco Everyday Rise Yoga Mat
  • our Yogamatters Natural Linen Collection also includes a yoga mat bag, an eye pillow and a packable tote
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Yogamatters Ikat Buckwheat Bolster

£40

Size: 63cm x 23cm diameter

Weight: 4.5 kg

Filled with organic buckwheat hulls, our stunning Ikat buckwheat bolster is the inspired choice for your yoga practice.

Ikat weaving has a rich heritage, dating back thousands of years as a traditional textile used in South East Asia and South America. It is with gratitude that we can still enjoy the beauty of this meticulously detailed design process today.

Ikat refers to the intricate dyeing process whereby bundles of yarn are wrapped tightly together and dyed repeatedly to create the desired pattern. Once dyed and dried, the yarns are painstakingly lined up by the weaver on the loom to form the unique pattern.