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What is a Yoga Bolster?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A yoga bolster is a popular yoga accessory that can be used in various ways. Bolsters are essentially cushions that are usually either cylindrical or rectangular in shape, and they are often stuffed with thick cotton batting or with things like buckwheat. Due to the rigors of some yoga practice, many bolsters feature washable covers, which helps to extend their lives.

Many of the common yoga accessories like the yoga bolster really weren’t used with great regularity until the 1960s. This is when some practitioners of yoga, like B.K.S. Iyengar noted that many students had trouble maintaining proper posture in certain poses because of things like injury or lack of flexibility. In order to encourage more accurate positioning, Iyengar and others developed equipment that would help people perform poses with greater comfort and better form.

The yoga bolster comes out of this tradition of finding ways to compensate for imperfect form or physical limitations, and it may be used in a variety of poses to help extend stretch. These cushions are also valuable for those promoting comfort in those people who have injuries. Women who are participating in prenatal yoga may get much greater support for the lower back and other parts of the body with a bolster’s help.

There are numerous positions in which a yoga bolster can be used. These include standard cross-legged meditative positions. Such poses may be more comfortable when sitting on bolster raises the hips, while the legs and feet are slightly lower and are on the floor.

Corpse pose, where the person lies on the back may be more comfortable if a bolster is between the legs, or inserted in the space between the lower back and the mat. When people attempt child’s pose, they may not be able to get hips to touch the feet, and a yoga bolster between hips and feet can be useful too. Some people use a bolster in an upright position to support the head during downward dog.

Some yoga classes and gyms have bolsters available for use during class. Those who practice regularly may want to purchase their own bolsters, and there are many sporting goods stores, department stores and online shops that sell them. Though some can be purchased inexpensively, most will cost over $20 US Dollars (USD), and midrange price for those with features like washable covers is about $50-$90 USD. Organic bolsters or those made with natural materials are likely to be the most expensive.

Beginning yoga students may be unsure if they require a yoga bolster for classwork. It’s advised that people discuss this with the teacher. Usually, unless prenatal yoga is practiced, they aren’t required, but they may be helpful in promoting correct form and in mastering the poses without discomfort.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Feb 13, 2015

@burcinc-- I use a 100% cotton one that's washable. This is a great choice especially considering that yoga equipment need to be cleaned regularly.

I recommend a cotton one for you, just make sure that it's firm but not too firm. If you can buy it in person that will be best. They come in different sizes and some people do better with one size. Or you could just look for one in the same measurements as the one you used in yoga class.

By burcinc — On Feb 12, 2015

I used a yoga bolster in my restorative yoga class and loved it. The difference was night and day for me. I had a much easier time with the poses and could do a few that I couldn't do before. I'm now looking to buy one for use at home. Do I need to look for any specific qualities? I want one that lasts a long time. Which material is best?

By fBoyle — On Feb 11, 2015

I use a yoga bolster when practicing yoga. When I developed back problems, I thought that I wouldn't be able to practice yoga anymore. But my yoga teacher recommended a yoga bolster and taught me how to use it in the different postures for ease, support and comfort. I can do all basic poses now without problems.

Although I highly recommend a yoga bolster, I still think that those with injuries should check with their doctor before doing yoga, even with a bolster. Some injuries may be worsened even with support equipment. And of course, I recommend working with an experienced yoga teacher.

Unfortunately, there are yoga centers and yoga teachers everywhere know but they're not all equally informed. Some yoga teachers are unaware of bolsters or don't teach their students how to practice with them. I've had the bad luck to meet a few yoga teachers like that but there are also excellent ones out there who will go out of their way to help.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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