Yoga Bolsters: History and Ways to Use Them

Yoga Bolsters: History and Ways to Use Them

Yoga bolsters are a popular prop used in many styles of yoga, from Hatha to Restorative, to provide support and comfort during poses. However, the history of the yoga bolster is not well documented, and its origins are somewhat unclear. Nevertheless, it is believed that bolsters have been used in yoga for centuries, and they continue to play an important role in modern yoga practices.

Here's a brief history of the yoga bolster...

The use of yoga props, including bolsters, is often attributed to the yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar, who is credited with popularizing the use of props in modern yoga practices. Iyengar, who was born in India in 1918, began practicing yoga at a young age and went on to become one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century. He emphasized the use of props such as blocks, straps, and bolsters to help practitioners achieve proper alignment and deepen their poses.

However, the use of bolsters in yoga is believed to date back much further, to the origins of yoga itself. Ancient texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which were written around 200-400 CE, mention the use of props such as blankets and cushions to provide comfort and support during meditation. It is believed that these props were also used during yoga poses to provide support and reduce the risk of injury.

Over time, the use of bolsters and other props in yoga has continued to evolve. In the early 20th century, the yoga teacher T. Krishnamacharya began to develop a system of yoga that focused on the use of props to make yoga accessible to a wider range of students. This approach was later adopted by Iyengar and other influential yoga teachers, who continued to refine and develop the use of props in modern yoga practices.

Today, yoga bolsters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, and are used in a wide range of yoga styles and practices. They are commonly used to support the spine, hips, and knees during seated and supine poses, and to provide comfort and relaxation during restorative yoga practices.

Creative Ways to Use a Yoga Bolster in Your Practice

Yoga bolsters are a versatile prop that can be used in a variety of ways to support and enhance your yoga practice. Here are five creative ways to use a yoga bolster in your practice:

  1. Heart-Opening Savasana: During Savasana (Corpse Pose), place a bolster under your shoulder blades to open your chest and heart. Lie back over the bolster with your arms extended out to the sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, allowing your body to relax fully into the support of the bolster.

  2. restorative forward fold yoga bolsterSupported Forward Folds: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, and place a bolster on top of your legs. Fold forward over the bolster, allowing your torso to rest on the support. You can keep your arms extended forward or rest them on the bolster. This pose is great for stretching the hamstrings and relieving tension in the lower back. On the pciture, I use a bolster + 2 cushions.

  3. Restorative Child’s Pose: Place a bolster lengthwise on your mat and kneel in front of it with your knees wide and your toes touching. Fold forward over the bolster and rest your forehead on the support. Allow your arms to drape down by your sides or place them on the bolster. This pose is deeply relaxing and can help to calm the mind and reduce stress.

  4. reclined cobbler pose with yoga bolsterReclining Bound Angle Pose: Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching. Place a bolster under your knees to support them and allow your hips to open. This pose can help to release tension in the hips and lower back, and is great for reducing stress and anxiety. You can also use the bolster as a heart opener in the same pose (supta baddhakonasana), check attached picture for more information.

  5. bolster supported yoga shoulderstandSupported Shoulderstand: Place a bolster perpendicular to your mat and lie back over it with your shoulders at the edge of the bolster. Lift your legs up towards the ceiling and come into Shoulderstand, using the bolster to support your back and shoulders. This pose can help to improve circulation, calm the mind, and reduce stress. On the picture, I use a yoga chair and the wall in the bolster supported shoulderstand (sarvangasana).

Yoga bolsters have been used in yoga for centuries, and they continue to play an important role in modern yoga practices. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced practitioner, a bolster can be a valuable tool to help you achieve proper alignment, deepen your poses, and find greater comfort and relaxation in your yoga practice. By incorporating bolsters into your practice, you can explore new ways of moving and stretching, and find greater ease and comfort in your yoga poses. Experiment with these poses and try incorporating bolsters into your other favorite poses to discover even more ways to use this versatile prop in your practice.

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