Pranayama Bolster: Not Just for Pranayama

This entry was posted on Mar 5, 2017 by Charlotte Bell.

Do you practice pranayama? The fourth limb of yoga—coming just after asana—pranayama is an essential part of Hatha Yoga practice. Practicing with attention to the breath is one of the things that separates yoga from other physical disciplines.

Pranayama is a slow build. Unlike asana, where people often feel immediate results, breathing practice integrates more gradually. For this reason, many practitioners lose interest. Plus, it can be very frustrating. It can be harder than you’d think to take a deep, satisfying breath.

Breathing deeply is especially challenging when we’re sitting. That’s why BKS Iyengar devised a way to practice lying down. Using a Pranayama Bolster under the spine expands the chest. An extra blanket under your head creates jalandara bandha (throat lock). Supine pranayama is a great way to regenerate your energy when you’re fatigued.

Here’s How to Set Up:

  1. Place a Pranayama Pillow lengthwise on a nonskid yoga mat.
  2. Place a folded yoga blanket on the head end of your Pranayama Bolster.
  3. Sit in front of the pillow with your gluteal muscles barely touching the end of the pillow.
  4. Lie down onto the pillow and adjust the folded blanket so that it supports both your neck and your head.
  5. Breathe deeply, lengthening your inhalations and allowing your body to settle on your exhalations.
  6. Breathe deeply for five minutes, taking a break when you need to. It’s fine to intersperse your pranayama with normal breathing.

Using a Pranayama Bolster in Your Asana Practice

You can also use Pranayama Bolsters to perform the function of small bolsters in your asana practice. Here are two examples:

Savasana: Sometimes we need just a little bit of support under our knees for a comfortable Savasana. Pranayama Bolsters are much narrower than Standard, Round or Junior Bolsters. While all three of these bolster types can be appropriate as Savasana props, Pranayama Bolsters, placed crosswise under the knees, are great for people who need just a little extra support.

Passive Back Bending: Because of their narrow width and shorter height, Pranayama Bolsters are comfortable for just about anyone in passive back bending. Placed crosswise under the lumbar-thoracic spine while you’re in a supine position, a Pranayama Bolster can create a relaxing lumbar support to ease tension buildup from our mostly forward-bent lives.

Pranayama Pillows come in solids and prints. Like all Hugger Mugger’s bolsters, they are handmade in our Salt Lake City facility. The fabrics are upholstery-grade cotton for durability, and the pillows are filled with 100% cotton batting.

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.

One response to “Pranayama Bolster: Not Just for Pranayama”

  1. Avatar Yael Calhoun says:

    Charlotte — you have a real gift for making the art and science of yoga accessible to everyone with your clear ideas and accessible language.
    As always — many thanks!

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