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A yoga bolster is a thick and firm yoga accessory resembling a pillow used for supporting the body in certain poses, ease the muscle strain and help them soften to reach the state of deep relaxation. Along with other yoga props, such as yoga straps, yoga blocks, and yoga wheels, the bolster is widely utilized in slow and relaxing types of yoga such as restorative, prenatal, and Iyengar.
Confused with all the different types of yoga? Check out this easy and comprehensive breakdown of major yoga styles.
Meet our top pick – yoga bolsters made in the US from high-quality materials including hemp, cotton, organic cotton or easy-care vinyl – you choose! Pick your shape, color, and fabric and enjoy the solid support as well as deeper relaxation whether you’re practicing at home or at the studio.
Developed and introduced into the yoga practice by B.K.S. Iyengar, bolsters along with other yoga props were used to make yoga accessible to everyone including people with injuries, older practitioners and those with less flexibility. From helping yogis reach the proper posture and form, ease breathing and release tension, a yoga bolster now is a versatile yoga accessory that can be used in a variety of ways. And thanks to diversity in designs, a yoga bolster can even decorate your couch when not used as intented.
Here are some of the examples of how to integrate a yoga bolster into your routine.
I bet all of us are no strangers to back pain whether as a result of slouching, carrying heavy things or standing all day. The good news is that yoga can bring a great deal of pain relief, a benefit supported by studies. A 2018 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality confirmed that yoga helps with the back pain and improves function both in the short and long term.
Take the Fish Pose, for example. It might look easy and fun, but in practice, it's often dangerous if performed incorrectly by the beginners. Some strain their neck or lower back too much, others place too much tension on the head instead of using their legs and core. In any case, whether you’re not ready for a challenge of the full pose or just too tired, a bolster comes for help. Place the prop lengthwise onto the mat and rest your lower, middle and upper back on the bolster. You will still feel your chest open and abdominal muscles stretch, but the bolster will take the tension off the back and neck, making the pose much more comfortable.
The relaxing Savasana, perhaps the most favorite pose among yogis, feels even better with the use of the simple bolster. Place the prop under your knees to release the lower back pressure and straighten the back.
Check out the video below to find out more uses of the bolster to release tension.
A bolster comes in handy when you need to modify the specific yoga pose for additional comfort and complete muscle release.
A Child’s Pose is an excellent example of how a bolster can provide extra support for your torso, making the pose more gentle for your back and more relaxing for your mind. Place a bolster between the thighs and in front of you to fully rest your body on it, soften, and rest as long as you want.
Check the video demonstration of the supported Child’s Pose with a yoga blanket and a bolster below.
Just like yoga blocks, a bolster brings floor closer to you decreasing the chances of overstretching and injury. Placing a bolster between your legs in Wide Seated Forward Bend or on your legs in Supported Forward Fold and resting your body on it will not only help you deepen into the pose but will also help loosen the jaw muscles and even out the breathing.
If you’ve got tight hip flexors, Pigeon Pose can be made easy by placing your hip, outer thigh, and knee onto the bolster. This will help you level out your sacrum, reaching correct alignment and little by little increase your flexibility.
While trying to focus and concentrate on your breathing, the last thing you want to feel is discomfort in your lower body such as knees. Sitting on the edge of a bolster in Lotus Pose brings your hips higher than the knees making the posture more relaxed and more comfortable to hold a straight spine.
You can place the bolster between the thighs in the Hero Pose as an alternative to the Lotus to wedge the distance between the calves and the thighs. For a visual demonstration, check how the instructor is sitting on the yoga bolster in the video below. Alternatively, you can sit on the yoga block to reduce the distance, but it will be slightly lower and not as comfy as the bolster.
Yoga bolsters are not just simple sofa cushions. While you can use a pillow or two in certain relaxing poses if there’s no yoga prop at hand, they in no way would be able to substitute the bolster designed specifically for yoga practice. Firstly, because of their shape - ordinary sofa cushions won't be suitable for the majority of the poses due to their square form that is too wide for chest openers and not long enough for full spine support. Secondly, because of their density – the cushions and pillows are not firm/thick enough and too squishy to provide your body with the necessary elevation.
Choosing a yoga bolster for the first time can be tricky because they come in various sizes, shapes, and densities, all of which can influence the quality of your yoga practice. Here are a few things to take into account when deciding on a yoga bolster.
If you’re hesitant about what size of a yoga bolster will suit you best, measure your torso length from the collarbone down to the hip and use this dimensions to make a final judgment. It is also always a good idea to try different shapes and sizes of bolsters at your studio (if possible), find what works or you and make a purchase based on your experience.
The most common types of bolsters are:
Standard rectangular yoga bolsters. Rectangular bolsters have a flat surface and are generally large and thick. They have “steep” edges that might feel not very comfy in the poses where your body has to hang off the side or when you have to place the bolster under your knees in Savasana (the Corpse Pose), for example. At the same time, they are easy to stack onto the blocks or onto each other to create more height when needed.
Standard round yoga bolsters. Some people find a cylindrical shape more convenient and adaptable compared to the rectangular one. Round shape conforms to the body curves and serves great for expanding the chest, improving backbends, and restorative ‘hugging’ variations of poses such as the Child’s pose, for example, where you can hug your bolster while resting on it.
On the downside, this type of bolster is less stable and doesn’t stack well. It is also generally bulky and not portable.
Pranayama yoga bolsters. These can come in a rectangular or cylindrical shape and are used mainly for breathing exercises – pranayama. When placed along the spine, pranayama bolsters help open the chest and deepen the inhalations for better relaxation and calmer mind.
Pranayama bolsters are much smaller and thinner than a standard-sized yoga bolsters, thus work great as a knee or neck support in forward bends and Savasana (the Corpse Pose). They are also lighter and more suitable for traveling or yogis who are always on-the-go.
Junior (aka lean) yoga bolsters. A smaller and narrower version of standard rectangular or round yoga bolsters. Generally, these work better for petite people and those with a shorter spine. Junior yoga bolsters are obviously lighter due to their compact size.
Fabric and filling of your yoga bolster will determine its durability and density as well as how well it will hold its shape after use and whether or not it will start collapsing with time.
Yoga bolsters are now upholstered in a variety of fabrics: from durable canvas-like fabric and organic cotton to hemp and vinyl. It is mostly a matter of preference, and each material has its pros and cons. Hemp, for example, is slightly more scratchy than organic cotton but is stronger and more durable. Vinyl is extremely easy to clean and non-fade in the sun, but completely non-absorbent and can add to a sweaty feeling.
A large number of bolsters now are filled with cotton batting with the foam core in the center, buckwheat husks, recycled fiberfill such as Kapok or polyester.
Cotton. This filling is extremely firm and sturdy but tends to soften and become less bulky with use.
Buckwheat. Bolsters filled with buckwheat husks are malleable and mold to your body shape. Most of the props filled with buckwheat can be adjusted to your preference – you can easily add or remove the filling when you feel like. While being super convenient and organic, buckwheat filling is extremely heavy so don’t expect to be able to tote your bolster to and from the yoga studio.
Fiber. Recycled fiberfill is generally super lightweight and softer than the cotton batting, but this comfort inevitably comes with a higher price tag.
Bolsters are sometimes mixed up with meditation pillows called zafus. Zafus are disk-shaped firm cushions used as a stool for raising your hips in a seated position to help reach the proper alignment, maintain natural spine curves and allow you to sit for more extended periods of time.
When compared to a bolster, zafu is less multifunctional - they were designed primarily for meditation. While zafus are super comfortable for a seated practice, they are not large enough to be used in restorative practice and do not offer enough surface for full-body support.
Yoga bolsters do not come cheap, but once you invest in a high-quality item and take proper care of it, your bolster will serve you for years.
Since your yoga bolster comes in close contact with the skin and body (which are sometimes sweaty) as well as the floor, make sure to clean the prop regularly to prevent the growth of germs and bacteria.
Some bolsters come with a removable zippered cover, making the cleaning process as easy as it can be. Hand wash or machine wash the cover in cold water to avoid any possible color bleed or shrinkage. Do not use drier, instead let the cover line dry.
The props with no removable cover can be either spot cleaned with water and a small amount of laundry detergent or dry cleaned from time to time. The latter is expensive but undoubtedly more effective and gentle. Get acquainted with the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before washing or applying any kind of cleaning solutions to your yoga bolster to preserve the integrity and the look of your yoga prop.
If you’re searching for a big and huggable yoga companion, YogaAccessories bolster might be an excellent option for you. The bolster is round-shaped making it super comfortable to sit on in the Hero Pose Virasana and use it as a back support for chest openers.
The bolster is made of 100% cotton, both the cover and filling and is available in the tons of colors – from classic black to bright red and blue with a side mandala embroidery. The pillowcase is removable and can be machine washed on cold. There are handles on each end for extra comfort (only one handle on the bolsters with embroidery design).
This bolster is very sturdy and firm. If you prefer softer surfaces, no worries. As the cotton settles, it will lose some firmness and become less bulky with use.
YogaAccessories offers an excellent price for this yoga accessory - it is nearly twice cheaper than some of the bolsters from the leading brands. Yet, it performs well and will serve you for years to come.
What you might want to prepare yourself for is the smell. Users noted that it is better to let the bolster air out before usage to avoid unpleasant sensations such as a headache because of the fabric odor. Those with sensitive skin may also find the material to be too rough against their skin, sort of canvas-like. Besides, the material is prone to collecting lint, so keep your prop away from the furry animals.
Mind that the bolster is slightly bigger than advertised. It works wonders in restorative yoga but might feel uncomfortable in some poses or too large for short and petite people. Check out our other suggestions if you're looking for a smaller yoga bolster.
Hugger Mugger is proud of being one of the pioneers of manufacturing yoga bolsters back in the 1980s. Their Standard yoga bolster is a classic. The rectangular-shaped prop will become an excellent addition to your yoga practice thanks to its stable surface and support.
Hugger Mugger Standard yoga bolster is a great compromise between large bulky bolsters and narrow pranayama pillows. With 25 inches in length, the bolster will suit the majority of yoga practitioners and is a great size to start if you're not familiar with using yoga props in your restorative yoga routine.
The cover is made of very sturdy cotton that will stand the test of time, and the filling mixes foam core and cotton batting for the perfect balance between firmness and softness. The bolster keeps its shape under pressure and doesn't sink in. In fact, some reviewers even found it even too firm to their liking.
There are two handles on both sides to make the transport of the bolster to and from the studio more comfortable.
The price for this Hugger Mugger prop does seem to be too steep when compared to the other offers on the market. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to invest in dry cleaning the bolster from time to time – the cover tends to collect lint and hair. Theoretically, you can remove the pillowcase and machine wash it on cold, but the manufacturer doesn’t recommend this as there is a risk of shrinkage.
In general, a Standard yoga bolster from Hugger Mugger is a high-quality yoga accessory with each piece handmade in the US. It might be well worth the price it costs - don't be surprised to see your prop looking like new after years of use.
Pranayama bolsters help with heart opening poses, gentle backbending, and supine breathing exercises. Waterglider International bolster is much thinner than a standard bulky bolster, which makes it lightweight and incredibly easy to carry to and from the studio.
Made of organic cotton, this affordable Pranamaya bolster provides firm, yet yielding support for your neck, knees and back as well as keeps its shape under body weight during meditation.
Pranayama pillows are generally not made to be multifunctional so not all the poses will be accessible with the given prop. You might need more pranayama pillows for deep relaxation or for better stretching, but with a bit of creativity and yoga blocks, you can use the pranayama pillow in a variety of ways.
California-based brand Brentwood Home cares for every little detail in their products. Their Crystal Cove Yoga Bolster is amazingly stylish with the textured cover inspired by the tide pools. But what’s better, the bolster performs as well as it looks on your sofa. Made of natural and non-toxic materials, Crystal Cove Bolster is filled with buckwheat hulls that help the prop mold the contours of your body, yet retain the pleasant softness. The filling is contained in the cotton inner liner. And here’s the best part – you can customize the firmness and bolster height by removing or adding buckwheat hulls to match all your needs.
Even though the bolster features a handle for the more comfortable transport, it is very heavy. With the weight of 12 pounds, the bolster won’t likely to become your go-to yoga prop when going to the studio but would rather serve as a useful accessory for the home practice.
If you’re not a fan of textured surfaces, you might also find the Crystal Cove tide pools imitations too annoying during the practice.
Proudly made in the US, Bean Products has an excellent choice of yoga bolsters. You can choose from three shapes – round, rectangular or pranayama, four types of cover material - premium hemp, cotton, organic cotton or vinyl and a ton of colors available. Every bolster has a durable foam core with the cotton batting wrap and comes with one handle for easy transport.
The cover is removable and can be washed in the machine on cold setting. We especially loved the Vinyl material as it is super easy to clean – just use a damped cloth to spot clean or wipe the dust.
Bolsters from Bean Products come at a hefty price but are made to last. If you have some issues, the company offers a 1 -year warranty period during which you can return the product.
Make sure to check the size of the bolster you’re ordering, every shape comes in different dimensions.
Gaiam products do not tend to disappoint with their quality. Their Sol Round Yoga Bolster is a premium quality prop that will support you and your body weight for many years of yoga practice. The bolster is filled with cotton batting and contains a solid foam cylinder inside for increased durability and stability. The soft microfiber cover is easy to clean and can be machine washed on cold and air dried. What is pleasant is that the prop arrives with no fabric smell and can be used right away – which earns this bolster a big plus.
If you’re used to carrying all your props to the studio, then you’ll be surprised that the Gaiam bolster weights only 4lbs – one of the most lightweight bolsters we’ve encountered on the market.
Make sure to check if the length is right for you. Some reviewers have noted that Sol Bolster is extremely comfortable but just too long for their spine, which is a shame considering the price tag of the accessory.
Travel fans and petite yogis rejoice! Bolsters that are lightweight, portable, and opposite to bulky exist. Zafuko pillow weights only 1.2 pounds, which makes traveling with this yoga prop a pure joy. Though being advertised as a meditation pillow, Zafuko is multi-functional. Apart from providing you with comfort during meditation, the prop doubles as a small bolster – perfect for a variety of yin and restorative poses for smaller and shorter yogis, and as a block – the surface is firm enough to provide you with greater stability and balance.
Zafuko pillow is upholstered in cotton and filled with 100% natural Kapok - an animal-friendly biodegradable resource. A fun and stylish design will surely make you stand out from the crowd in your yoga class.
What some people may find discouraging is that Zafuko doesn't feature a removable cover to protect the pillow. There’s also no handle for carrying which would be useful when you’re on-the-go.
Other than that, we loved the pillow and of course its affordability.
Upholstered in soft 100% organic cotton, Sol Living bolster is not only eco-friendly but also durable and very sturdy. It works great for restorative poses and passive stretching where you can just let your body go and allow the bolster to support you under the weight of gravity. While it might seem slightly overstuffed at first, the Sol Living bolster will break in with use and become more comfortable and softer.
The zippered cover is removable and can be either machine washed on cold or easily spot cleaned. The bolster also features a convenient strap for a smoother transition between the poses.
Keep in mind that this bolster is big and thick. It might be even larger than the usual studio bolsters. While this makes it really comfy for the home practice, the prop weights too much to be carried to the studio.
Still, considering its affordability and quality, the Sol Living bolster is an excellent value for money.
If you’re new to yoga and not sure whether it’s your thing, check out a rectangular yoga bolster »Paravati«. It is budget-friendly and more gentle than the usual cotton batting bolsters. Filled with organic buckwheat husk, Paravati bolster will conform to your shape without creating discomfort for your body. And if it still feels too hard, you can always adjust the firmness by taking some husks out of the bolster.
You can choose from the several bright, vibrant colors to match your equipment and/or personality.
On the downside, the bolster is heavy, and it won’t be easy to take it out to the studio. Buckwheat bolsters also make a specific scrunching sound when moved, which can be slightly annoying to some.
Rectangular Yoga Bolster from Yoga Direct does an excellent job considering its fair price. Made of 100% cotton cloth and filled with cotton batting, the bolster is supportive, doesn't squish too much under the weight, taking your restorative or yin yoga class to the next level.
The rectangular shape makes this yoga accessory extremely versatile. It provides excellent stability and stacks well, can be used as a firm floor pillow, is convenient to place under in seated postures and prop up the buttocks. The petite yogis, though, have to keep in mind that the bolster is pretty big and heavy.
Some reviewers have complained that the prop is too stiff and bumpy and a bit harder than they expected. Cotton batting can indeed feel too sturdy at first but tends to sink in with usage resulting in a more comfortable practice.
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