Firm and Soft: The Perfect Yoga Bolster

This entry was posted on Feb 15, 2022 by Charlotte Bell.
Bench/Stonehenge Pose with Standard Bolster - Rain

If your idea of Restorative Yoga comes only from photos you’ve seen of it—looks boring, you might say—your view is likely not accurate. While it’s true that Restorative Yoga does involve lying around on blankets and a yoga bolster for long periods of time, it’s anything but boring. Setting your body up in supported positions that you can then hold for long periods requires knowledge, body awareness and a pile of props. The results can be profound.

Restorative Yoga practitioners know its powers well. Restorative practice provides something we all could use in our non-stop lives—deep rest. It is both relaxing and regenerative. Deep rest is not the same as sleep, even though sleep sometimes happens in practice. In Restorative practice, our bodies rest deeply, creating an environment of ease for our minds. We come out of practice refreshed and renewed.

Tools for the Journey

Restorative Yoga is prop intensive. While I’ve taught Restorative classes in situations where only a blanket or two were available to each student, it’s not ideal. The collective where I teach is fully outfitted with everything we need for a Restorative class of 20 people. In other words, there are enough props for everyone to have:

This may seem like a lot of stuff, but all these props are useful in your regular asana practice too!

The Perfect Yoga Bolster

The most essential tool for Restorative practice is a firm yoga bolster. Hugger Mugger began making and selling bolsters more than 30 years ago. Over the years they’ve perfected the process. While you might accuse me of bias for writing this on HM’s blog, it’s really true that their bolsters are the best I’ve used. HM has perfected the process of creating bolsters that provide the perfect balance of firmness and softness. They are soft on the outside, so that they’re easy on your bones. But most important, they are firm enough so that they retain their shape no matter what kind of stressors are placed on them.

Side Bend on Junior Yoga Bolster - Poppy
  1. Supported poses in Restorative Yoga place your body into a specific shape. Sofa cushions, pillows or more pliable (and usually cheaper) bolsters, have too much “give.” They smash down when you sit or lie on them. When this happens, you end up in a collapsed pose instead of the open position that feels so great. (For example, the lateral stretch in the photo directly above wouldn’t happen if you’re on a squishy bolster or pillow.)
  2. Many Restorative poses require that the bolster itself be supported, usually slanted on a block or two (as in the photo at the top of this blog). When you rest your body weight onto a flexible yoga bolster or run-of-the-mill cushion, it will collapse downward wherever it’s not being supported by a block. This can be uncomfortable and hard on your back.

3 Yoga Bolster Choices

Standard Bolsters are the most versatile type for Restorative practice. If you’re buying your first yoga bolster and are planning on having only one—for now—the Standard Bolster is the way to go. Round and Junior bolsters can also provide great support in specific situations and for people with varying body types. All of Hugger Mugger’s bolsters are handmade in their Salt Lake City-based facility.

A high-quality yoga bolster is an investment—in your own well-being. And they’re made to last. I still use bolsters I bought from Hugger Mugger decades ago. Give yourself the gift of relaxation time to regenerate your body and mind.

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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