Yoga Bolsters and Yoga Props – How and when to use them.
Ever seen those big round cushions (yoga bolster) or blocks of foam in a yoga studio and not known how the bloody hell to use them other than at the beginning or end of the class? You’re not alone!
Yoga props are often overlooked or used sparingly – and it’s a damn shame if you ask me!
There is a common misconception that using yoga props is for beginners only or that using them somehow makes you ‘not good enough at yoga’.
This couldn't be further from the truth and even the most experienced yogis find a place for the humble bolster or block.
But today we are talking bolsters specifically. So how do we use them? Maybe you've chucked one under the back of your knees in savasana. Or perhaps you lay over one in supta badakanasana in those peaceful 5 minutes before class (if you just thought a cat stepped on my keyboard that’s cool! Don’t be intimidated by the big, unfamiliar names of postures!)
But how else can they be supplemented into our practice? Whether that’s in a yoga studio or at home.
Here are some of my favourite ways to use my bolster – and you will notice – it’s not always when I practise yoga!
My favourite way to use my bolster is laying over it at the end of a long day sitting at my computer. Sometimes I place it up my spine and let my arms flop out to the sides for 10 minutes on the floor (as pictured)
Or sometimes I place the bolster horizontally across my spine, right where my bra strap is, for a different opening sensation across the chest.
Both of these positions help me to shake of any slouching I’ve unconsciously fallen into throughout the day.
Have you ever seen a physio for back, shoulder or neck pain and had them advise you to roll up a towel and lay over it? This is the exact same thing – except a bolster gives you a bit of extra height and in my opinion is much more convenient (literally having to go and get a towel and roll it up is enough to stop me doing this, whereas having my bolster handy and ideally visible, is the extra push I need).
A couple of other favourites, are, as mentioned above, supta badakanasana (as pictured),
where I again lay with the bolster up my spine and bring the soles of my feet together with my legs forming a diamond shape. Here I’m getting the same benefits as mentioned above but with the added benefit of gently opening up my groin and hips.
If someone asked you to name one yoga pose - child's pose might come to mind. And with good reason. It is an absolute staple!
Using the bolster for extended child’s pose is a juicy variation of this shape – AND DOESN’T MAKE YOU ANY LESS OF A YOGI!
For those of you not necessarily wanting to do a full yoga practice but a few stretches here and there as you’re watching telly or winding down for the night – this is a good one to add to your toolkit. It feels so cosy and comforting. Just remember to swap the direction of your head halfway through.
To do child’s pose with a bolster simply spread the knees wide, toes close together and keep your bottom working towards your heels as you walk the arms forward, bolster between the legs, and bring one ear to the bolster so that you are looking to one side.
Settle in for a couple of minutes and then switch the direction of your head. Voila. Open hips and a bit of love for the back! It's also a great place to chill out if you're feeling a bit fragile or stressy.
So I highly recommend reaching for that big old cushion more often and trying to incorporate it into your everyday life, not just your yoga practice (if you even have one).
My bolster has become like a close friend, she holds me when I need her and I miss the shit out of her when it has been too long between catch ups!
Photography credit: Emeallia Clifton