The word “bolster” is defined as a “to support or strengthen.” Yoga bolsters do just that. They help to support you in difficult or prolonged poses, which provides a number of benefits. If you’ve attended a Restorative, Yin, or Iyengar class that’s employed the use of bolsters you’ve probably experienced how amazing they can be.
Whether you’re looking to add one to your home practice or want to have them on hand at your own studio, we’ve researched to find the best yoga bolster, and put together a list for you.
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Benefits of Yoga Bolsters
To get the most out of Restorative poses and practice, a bolster is a must-have. However, many practitioners coming from other types of yoga, such as Bikram and Vinyasa, don’t see all the benefits at first glance. Here are some of the great reasons to add a bolster to your yoga practice.
Cure Insomnia and Anxiety
Yoga bolsters are used extensively in Restorative yoga practice, which focuses on stillness and meditation while holding poses. If you haven’t tried it, Restorative yoga more than lives up to its name. Practitioners who have trouble sleeping or are experiencing heightened anxiety can vouch for how Restorative yoga melted away their anxiety and allowed them to have their best sleep in ages.
Bolsters are crucial in Restorative yoga. Poses that are nearly impossible to maintain for long periods without support are made possible through the use of a bolster. This allows for a focus on the mental aspects of your practice, which helps with mental and physical recovery.
Using a bolster to support yourself allows you to sink further into the pose, providing a deeper stretch and developing the flexibility crucial to all yoga practice. For instance, employing a bolster to support yourself during a pose like King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) can help you get a better stretch in your hips and back.
Yoga is designed to strengthen and heal the body. However, like any exercise, if performed incorrectly it can lead to injury. By using a bolster during difficult poses you can train yourself to perform the pose properly, getting the most out of your practice without negative impacts.
One good example of a pose that a bolster can help with is the Camel Pose (Ustrasana). In this pose, we bend back backward to reach for our heels. When first learning this pose, many of us have the propensity to twist or strain the back when trying to maintain balance. The key to the Camel Pose is to send the hips forward. Since this can cause you to feel off-balance at first, a bolster placed upright against a wall in front of the hips can provide the support necessary to master the pose.
Develop Skills Faster
Just like the Camel Pose discussed above, a variety of other poses can be mastered by first learning them with the support of a bolster. Think of your yoga bolster as a training partner, guiding you as you attempt new poses or increase your mastery of those you’re already familiar with.
How to Use a Yoga Bolster
The uses of yoga bolsters are many and varied. The key is to use it for the following:
- Make a pose comfortable to maintain for long periods, fostering meditative aspects of yoga.
- Allow for deeper stretching.
- Provide necessary support.
With these fundamental guidelines, yoga instructors and practitioners have found many ways to employ bolsters. Here is a fantastic guided Restorative yoga session:
If you haven’t practiced using a bolster before, we recommend attending a Restorative or Iyengar class where the instructor employs bolsters. This can help you get a better feel for how bolsters can be used.
How to Choose a Yoga Bolster
Yoga bolsters come in a variety of shapes and degrees of firmness. While some of these are up to personal preference, there are some guidelines for choosing the right bolster for you.
Which Bolster Fill is Right for You?
Bolsters come with four main types of filling:
- Foam and Cotton
Buckwheat is a great natural choice for your yoga bolster. It is firm, molds to your body, and is very durable. However, buckwheat is an allergen, so if you are allergic or plan to use bolsters in your studio you may want to avoid it.
Foam and Cotton bolsters usually feature a foam core surrounded by cotton batting. They are soft enough to be comfortable but still firm enough to retain shape and provide support.
Cotton filled bolsters are generally softer than buckwheat and foam-and-cotton competitors. If firm bolsters are uncomfortable for you, a well-packed cotton bolster can retain shape and is generally much lighter than buckwheat. Another benefit is the cotton’s hypoallergenic nature.
Fiber bolsters combine firm, durable filling that won’t compress over time with the lightweight of cotton. Most Fiber fills include either recron or polyester.
What Bolster Shape Should You Choose?
Yoga bolsters come in two main shapes:
While bolsters are versatile and almost any bolster can be used throughout your practice, there are distinct advantages to each shape.
Rectangular bolsters are great for providing support to poses. Whether you lay it flat, stand it on its edge, or prop it against a wall, the rectangular bolster helps act as a physical guide. Perfect for support when attempting the King Pigeon pose we discussed earlier.
Round bolsters encourage your body to follow the bolster’s shape, guiding curves and bends and encouraging deep stretching. Place a round bolster lengthwise along your spine and lay back, relaxing your shoulders. You’ll feel your chest open up, promoting better breathing and circulation.
Top 5 Yoga Bolsters
Based on the criteria above, we’ve put together our list for the best yoga bolsters.
Best Seller: YogaAccessories Rectangular Cotton Yoga Bolster
The Yoga Accessories rectangular bolster is a tested and approved product, with over 1,000 reviews and many more satisfied customers. We love this bolster because of its removable cover (which is a breeze to wash) and because YogaAccessories combats the natural propensity of cotton filling to compress by stuffing their bolsters with a little extra.
- Easy to wash
- Durable and stands up to prolonged use
- Simple to add or remove cotton stuffing to adjust the firmness
- Twill cover slightly coarse on bare skin
- May need to wash cover on arrival to remove dye odors
Top Rated: Ajna Yoga Bolster – Rectangular
There’s a reason people have so many great things to say about the Ajna bolster. Made of 100% vegan products and filled with recycled foam, this bolster is as good for the environment as it is for your body. It’s lightweight, at only 3.4 pounds, but doesn’t sacrifice any firmness or support.
- Recycled foam core retains shape and firmness over time, unlike natural fills
- The eco-suede cover is comfortable and machine washable
- Stylish and extremely high quality
- 3.4 lb weight may not appeal to those who prefer heavier, buckwheat-filled bolsters
Best Value: YogaDirect Rectangular Cotton Yoga Bolster
With a variety of colors and durable 100%-cotton construction, there’s a lot to love about the YogaDirect bolster. Its low price makes it a great entry-level bolster for home practice, or perfect for junior yogis. Weighing in at over 6 pounds, it’s a substantial bolster for a low price.
- Unbeatable price for a rectangular bolster
- High-quality construction and durability
- Somewhat overstuffed, making it more pillowy than bolster-like
Best Round Bolster: YogaAccessories Supportive Round Cotton Yoga Bolster
At 28 inches (71 cm) long and 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter, this round bolster is the perfect size for a wide variety of poses. Filled with high-grade cotton, this round bolster maintains shape much better than competitors with loose fill. As with all YogaAccessories bolsters, it features a machine washable cover and convenient carrying handles.
- The round shape does not deteriorate overuse
- Machine washable
- Responsive seller
- Does not come in a smaller size for juniors
Instructor’s Pick: Hugger Mugger Standard Yoga Bolster
The Hugger Mugger yoga bolster is a longtime favorite thanks to the company’s high-quality standards and the durable foam-core-and-cotton design. It maintains shape and firmness, doesn’t compress over time, and delivers the support you absolutely need in a rectangular bolster. Products like these are the reason Hugger Mugger has been going strong for over 30 years.
- A supportive foam core design
- The choice bolster of many professional yoga studios
- Dimensions are slightly smaller than 100% cotton designs but offer comparatively more support
- Not machine washable
The Best Bolster for You
If you’re looking to get a yoga bolster today, you absolutely can’t go wrong with the Ajna Rectangular bolster.
It’s one of the most lightweight and versatile bolsters on the market, perfect for adding to your home practice space. It’s made an incredible impression on those who own one, so much so that it’s hard to even find a negative review!