Relax on a Round Bolster

This entry was posted on Nov 15, 2016 by Charlotte Bell.

round bolsterWhen most yoga practitioners think of yoga bolsters, they picture a firm cushion with a wide, flat top—a Standard Bolster. It’s true that Standard Bolsters are favorites at the overwhelming majority of yoga studios. But in some poses, and for some people, a bolster of a different shape might work even better.

That is why Hugger Mugger carries more than one type of bolster. We’re not all the same, and every pose isn’t exactly the same. If you look in Judith Hanson Lasater’s classic Restorative yoga book, Relax and Renew for example, you’ll see a whole lot of people relaxing on Round Bolsters.

Round Bolsters differ from Standard Bolsters in that their profile is circular rather than oval. The round shape can be advantageous for some people and poses because it creates a gentler slope that can more easily follow the line of our bodies.

For example, many people find Standard Bolsters to be too wide and flat to use under their legs for support in Savasana. You can use a Round Bolster in Savasana.

Ahhh … Modified Viparita Karani

One of Restorative Yoga’s classic poses is Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall). Among its many benefits is its ability to calm the nervous system through a process called the “baroreflex.” The baroreflex helps maintain consistent blood pressure and is involved in suppressing the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system. Viparita Karani’s unique shape, with the head below the heart and the neck flexed, stimulates the baroreflex. That is why it is one of the staples of Restorative practice.

Some people find the vertical leg position in the traditional pose to be hard to sustain. If you are one of these people, try resting your legs on a chair instead.

And of course, you can also try using a Round Bolster rather than a Standard Bolster. A Round Bolster may feel better for some practitioners because it more closely follows the curvature of some people’s spines. Because Restorative practice is most effective when you’re resting in comfort, it’s worth your time and effort to use just the right support. A Round Bolster just might be your ticket.

Here’s how:

  • Place a Round Bolster crosswise on a nonskid yoga mat 4 to 6 inches from a folding chair.
  • Fold a Yoga Blanket into a 6- to 8-inch-wide strip and place it 90 degrees to your bolster.
  • Sit on the edge of your bolster. Roll your body toward the center of the bolster as you lie back, then place your legs on the chair. Adjust your body so that your tailbone hangs slightly off the edge of your bolster.
  • You should feel fully supported by the bolster. If you feel that your weight is collapsing down onto your shoulders, move closer to the chair.
  • Adjust your body so that the blanket is centered underneath you.
  • You may need to adjust the chair by moving it more toward you or farther away from you.
  • Let your arms rest a comfortable distance from your sides.
  • Breathe deeply for about a minute and then let go of control of your breathing. Relax here for 5 to 20 minutes.
  • When you’re finished, draw your knees in toward your body, sliding your legs off the chair. Roll gently onto your side. After a few breaths push yourself up to a sitting position.
About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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