5 Great Therapeutic Uses For A Yoga Bolster:

by Carole Fogarty

Yoga bolsters are the perfect “best friend” to flop onto at the end of the day.  Particularly if your body is feeling depleted, exhausted or little stiff.

Bolsters can help counteract bad posture, softly open up your chest, ribs and belly (great for your meridians and circulation), improve blood flow to your key organs,  encourage calmer breathing or reduce fatigue and stress in the body.

Bottom line, your body will feel deeply supported when resting on a bolster, which in turn allows you to release, relax and rejuvenate.

How you lay/rest on the bolster will determine the therapeutic benefits.  Many of which I re-discovered recently at a 4 day Yoga Therapy teacher training with the awesome Judith Lasater (President of the Californian yoga teachers association and world guru on restorative yoga)

In the yoga therapy training we often used 2 or more bolsters along with yoga blocks to position ourselves into  a restful and restorative pose.  It was bliss.

Today I feel like going simple by suggesting 5 clever ways you can rejuvenate with just one yoga bolster.

5 great therapeutic applications for a yoga bolster:

Practice any of the following for between 5 to 20 minutes.  Close your eyes, relax your breathing and enjoy.  Remember being comfortable is always the key.  If it doesn’t feel right adjust the bolster until you are super comfy.  We are all unique and your body knows what it needs.

1: Supported back bend – chest opener:

Great for opening the front area of your body (belly ribs and heart), nourishes your organs and great for improving digestive function  (I can vouch for that).  Its perfect to combat the effects of long hours hunched over a computer.

Remember comfort is always the key.  So in addition to whats shown in the picture above, I would personally place a blanket or pillow under the neck to allow the neck/head/shoulder area to relax deeply and soften the pose even more.

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Photos by lulelemon:

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2:  Childs pose supported with bolster

This is one of my absolute favourites.  Kneel and pull the bolster between your legs.  Now, gently lay face down resting the front of your body on the bolster.  Adjust until you are comfy, close your eyes and breath.  You are essentially turning your back to the world which is probably why I feel so safe and relaxed in supported childs pose.

Whilst resting in this pose breathing into your kidneys is a simple way to use the breath to gently open up and relax the muscles in your sacrum, lower back area.

I’ve written about supported child pose before as a remedy for insomnia and calming a racing mind.   You can click here to find out more and see a picture of the pose if you are not sure.  It’s highly restorative pose and deeply nourishing to your nervous system.

3:  Heart chakra opener:

Laying with your head, shoulders and spine along the bolster has many benefits.  It helps improve digestion, gentle stretches your diaphragm, intercostals and abdominals.  This is a great pose to simply focus on, and follow nothing else except your breath.

Inhale into your heart space and feel the surrender and relaxation that follows.

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Photo by lulelemon:

4:  Elevated legs up the wall with bolster

Instead of resting your bottom on the floor in legs up the wall you simply pop a bolster under your buttock area to give a nice little lift.   You’ll feel a gentle opening throughout your lower back and should feel a slight release with more blood and energy flow shortly afterwards.  It refreshes the lungs and heart, brings new blood flow to your stomach area, rests weary legs and helps calm the mind.

If you are not sure what legs up the wall looks like please click here.

5:  Lying in savasana – the relaxation pose:

Lay on your back with your legs slightly parted and feet flopping out to the sides.  Have your arms away from your body with your palms facing up, fingers slightly curled and fingers and thumbs soft and relaxed. Part your lips a little to release any tension in your jaw and neck area.  All these seemingly insignificant little steps are important in triggering the relaxation response in the body and releasing fatigue, anxiousness and stress.

This is the ultimate yoga relaxation pose and one which you will be familiar if you have been to a yoga class.  Its generally the pose done at the end of the class.

So, for a variation on savasana, lay on your back and place the bolster under your knees so your legs and feet are able to flop over the bolster.  You’ll find it creates a little more space in your lower back and perfect if you find your lower back is grabbing or pinching a little today.

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What I’m  loving at the moment:

This workbook is the spine of the The Artists Way teachings by Julia Cameron.  It’s a 12 week course for re-connecting to your creativity.  Here’s a snippet of what you can expect.  Week 2  recovering your sense of identity.  Week 3 recovering your sense of power. I’ve found the Artists Way Workbook full of inspiration and great reminders.

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Join Carole under the Tuscan sun in Italy, May 2013.

Restful restorative yoga, meditation and walking retreat.  All welcome.Immerse yourself in Tuscan culture staying in a fully restored 17th century country villa set amongst 28 hectares of natural woodlansds as you rest, replenish and rejuvenate your soul.    Click here for all the relaxing details.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela June 4, 2011 at 6:06 am

Thanks for this post! Do you have any recommendations about what kind of bolster to buy or where to buy them?

Reply

Carole Fogarty June 6, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hi Pamela,

Not sure where you live but I order mine on-line from yoga king in Brisbane.

If you don’t live in Australia, let me know which country and I’ll see if I can help you.

Reply

Glenn Verdult April 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Hello i am Glenn Verdult

I enjoy reading your articles

I am looking forward to read more..

Reply

Carole Fogarty April 10, 2012 at 7:05 am

Thanks Glenn. Really appreciate your feedback. Trust I continue to write helpful articles. Carole

Reply

Amanda September 2, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hi Carole

Would you happen to know the best type of bolster for restorative yoga as in the article above? I am based in the UK.

Many thanks,

Amanda

Reply

Karen Clark September 21, 2012 at 7:33 am

Carole,
I thoroughly enjoyed your post. The poses you cited are valuable for each of us whether during our practice or to release all the pent up energy from a stressful day. Thank you for the pictures, as they are so helpful when trying to perform each technique. Keep up the positive information.
Namaste,
Karen

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