The addition of bolsters to any yoga practice can be a helpful way to amplify, modify, and deepen your experience on the mat.
Whether your yoga practice is based in physical fitness, relaxation, spirituality, or anything in between, bolsters can help to deepen a wide variety of asanas and provide additional support and accessibility for yogis of all levels.
Bolsters of all shapes and sizes can be utilized in a variety of ways, often several at a time, and it can be challenging to find the perfect prop with so many on the market. Below you’ll find an easy guide to selecting the best bolster (or bolsters!) for your intended practice, enabling you to slip into relaxation with ease.
Factors to Consider:
There are a few key characteristics of yoga bolsters that will help to narrow down your options. Shape and size, materials used, and intention of use are all important to note in order to get the most out of your bolster.
Shape and Size
The shape and size of the bolster will directly relate to your intended use and what “enhancing” your practice means to you. Three common bolster shapes include circular, rectangular, and V-shaped.
Circular Bolsters lend themselves to a wide range of uses. In a more active practice, these bolsters can be used for strengthening purposes, such as being held over the head during a high lunge or in between the thighs in chair pose.
They can aid in alignment during a vinyasa flow and offer extra support in restorative poses such as beneath the hip in half pigeon or under the lumbar spine in a supine backbend. These are great to engage more muscles in certain poses and fill the gaps in areas where there is a small amount of space between the body and the mat.
Rectangular Bolsters, either rounded or more flat, are a great choice for restoration and relaxation. Those who are rehabilitating an injury or have the intention of stress relief will benefit from a bolster of this style.
Position them underneath the legs in savasana, beneath the hips in wide-legged bound angle pose, or under the torso in child’s pose for maximum support and tension release in areas that need it most. These work well for places where there is more space between the floor and the mat.
V-Shaped Bolsters are one of the best options for added cushioning beneath the sitz bones in seated meditation, offering optimal support for the hips and thighs for extended periods of time.
Medium to firm bolsters are generally the best choice for overall versatility and safety. In terms of which side of this spectrum to lean towards, firmer bolters are better for active support, while medium bolsters are best for restoration and relaxation.
Both the material of the filling and outer lining of the bolster should be considered first and foremost for safety reasons. Bolsters come in all kinds of different materials and it is important to make sure you’re not allergic to these prior to purchase, especially given the amount of close contact you will be coming into with it. This also impacts the price. Furthermore, different materials lend to different experiences.
Foam filler lends itself more to supporting more active poses such as backbends and inversions. Some bolsters even contain memory foam which offers even more support in sensitive areas such as the head and neck. It does however need to be hand-washed.
Polyester is a great filler for restorative relaxation as it is a bit less firm than foam. It is also less expensive, but often not as eco-friendly as some other options. These covers can range in softness and fall somewhere in the middle for cleaning ease.
Cotton filler is also on the softer side and is a great pillow-like bolster for all areas of the body. Cotton covers are also the easiest to clean, sweat-resistant, and are soft to the touch. It can however be more expensive than some other options.
Buckwheat is another interesting filler material that is heavy in weight, which can be great options for adding extra weight for strengthening poses, or to hold up to extended periods of time in yin poses. It does however have an earthy smell that some people find grounding while others may find it off putting. Buckwheat also falls somewhere in the middle for cleaning ease.
Many practitioners enjoy the softness of suede/velvet, but it is not very water-resistant making it difficult to clean and resist sweat in a heated/higher intensity class.
Best Yoga Bolsters
Gaiam Halfmoon Sit Set
Equipped with a medium-firm cotton filling and soft, easy-to-clean microfiber cover, this super versatile bolster set can be utilized in a number of ways. Both cushions in this set are obvious choices for seated meditation, but the rounder one can also be used for added weight and strengthening.
Place either cushion under the hips, knees, and thighs for added restorative support. Its smaller size also makes it easy to travel with. While this set is a bit on the pricier side, but for two bolsters that do the job of many, we think it’s well worth it.
Manduka Enlight Yoga Bolster
This polyester-filler bolster with microfiber covering is a bit more affordable, but still comes with high ratings from users.
Use this rectangular bolster for support in deep stretching in yin classes or beneath the joints, muscles, and back for injury recovery or to bring the floor closer to you. Its long rectangular shape makes it an essential bolster for optimal release and support so you can slip into relaxation without a second thought.
Hugger Mugger V-Shaped Meditation Cushion
This uniquely shaped bolster provides the best hip and thigh support for seated meditation. It has a cotton cover and buckwheat feeling that make it soft to the touch and dense enough to hold up to prime posture support for extended periods of time. It is a best seller and provides quality materials and durability for the price point.