In our very busy lives, we all have times when we feel frazzled, overwhelmed, exhausted. No matter who we are, or how we live our lives. That's when we need to stop, slow down, and remember to indulge in a little self-care from time to time.
And that's when we need a little “comfort-yoga” to create deep rest and relaxation. Restorative yoga poses can do just that, help you to restore, relax, rejuvenate your body and mind. These poses are done either lying down or seated, and your body will be supported by props for optimum comfort because each pose is held for 5 to 6 minutes.
Sometimes all you need is to do to feel rested and ready to carry on is one restorative yoga pose, where you make yourself really comfortable and stay there for up to 10 minutes.
A yoga bolster can make each pose even more restful and relaxing.
What's a yoga bolster? A yoga bolster is a long and densely-filled cushion to use for support, improved alignment and greater comfort during yoga poses. You may have seen and used bolsters in your yoga class, and it is a tool that can greatly enhance your home practice.
Now you may be asking yourself… how can a yoga bolster enhance my home practice? A bolster provides support and comfort so that you can stay longer and with more comfort in a seated or reclining pose. It provides ease and freedom so that you can go deeper into rest and relaxation, and get maximum benefits from each pose.
A bolster is a very versatile prop that can be used to support your body in many ways: lie back and drape your body over your bolster for a beautiful heart opening back bend, giving support and length to the spine; and it can be used to bridge the space between your body and the floor in forward bends, providing you something closer than the floor to rest on, so you can relax into a pose, hang out, feel supported, release all tension.
The comfort and ease the bolster provides allows you linger longer in a pose, it frees your mind to explore the pose as though from the inside out. What does this mean? When you can linger comfortably in a pose, you have the opportunity to expand your awareness to focus on your breath, to notice your alignment, to notice what is happening in your muscles and joints during the pose.
And finally, supporting the body with props for yin yoga and restorative yoga (where you typically hold the poses for 4-6 minutes) allows the muscles to relax and the work can go deeper, beyond the muscles and into the fascia (connective tissue).
You may have noticed that bolsters typically come in two shapes. So which shape should you choose, round or rectangular? Both are equally effective for your practice, in different ways.
A round bolster will fit nicely with the curves of your spine, so it’s great for backbends, and ideal to support your knees in savasana. It offers a bit more height than a rectangular bolster so it’s ideal if you require a little more space between your body and the floor in supported forward bends.
A rectangular bolster won’t roll like a round bolster might, so it will be more sturdy if you want to sit on it. Its lower height offers a less intense backbend which is good for pranayama, but may require you to stretch a little further in the supported forward bends.
Both styles of bolsters can be used for any of the following poses.
4 ULTRA-RESTFUL WAYS TO USE YOUR YOGA BOLSTER
Here are 4 restorative poses to try, and ideally to stay in for 5 to 6 minutes (or longer if you wish!) to deepen the work. With a yoga bolster, each pose becomes more relaxing, and an opportunity for mindfulness and meditation.
1. Supported Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is a restful forward bend that brings you spine into a gentle C curve providing a gentle stretch to your lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. It is also a very calming position, calming the nervous system and helping to release stress.
You begin by bringing your big toes together and your knees wide. In the classic version of Child’s Pose, you would place your forehead on the floor between your knees. In this more restful and restorative version, resting your upper body forward on the length of a bolster makes the forward bend less intense and more restful. If you’d like additional height, drape your arms across the bolster and rest your forehead on your forearms or stacked fists.
Relax completely and receive the support of the bolster into your body, notice the movement of your breath in your back, and focus on receiving and releasing with ease.
2. Supported Reclining Goddess (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This is my favourite pose. It allows gravity to create a comfortable hip opening position and gentle stretch to the inner thigh and groin muscles. I also find that, with a bolster, it creates spaciousness across the chest for heart opening. Reclining on a bolster and possibly using a few other props will make this more restorative and restful. It’s a great pose that can help to relieve back pain and sciatica.
Set up your bolster - see the two versions below. Sit at the very end of the bolster with both knees bent, your feet together. Lean back to rest on the bolster (using your hands to help you get there if needed). Let your knees fall open, and press the soles of your feet together. Your arms can be in any comfortable position.
Keep the pose soft and gentle, don’t try to push your knees down towards the floor, if you do you might strain your groin muscles.
This pose can be modified by raising the bolster onto a diagonal using blocks (this puts the spine into a more neutral alignment) and by propping your knees on meditation cushions or rolled-up blankets or yoga blocks.
3. Supported Prone Twist
Twists are excellent to get some flexibility and mobility into your spine, and can also stimulate your digestion. This gently supported prone twist does all that. It's great at the end of a dynamic practice, on it's own if you're not feeling 100%, and also if you are pregnant.
Sit sideways about 5 inches from one end of the bolster. Face the bolster and place your hands on either side. Then lower your upper body to rest your ribs, heart centre and cheek along the length of the bolster. Rest your arms comfortably alongside. And settle in for some relaxing breath awareness practice.
Do the same on the opposite side to balance the work evenly.
4. Supported Savasana (Final Resting Pose)
Sometimes all you need in your practice is savasana. This highly restful pose can be made more easeful by placing a bolster under your knees. Your lower back may be happier. Here is where a round bolster might be more comfortable. Savasana (this final resting pose is usually called by its Sanskrit name pronounced sha-VA-sana) is a meditative pose, with the whole body relaxed on the floor and eyes closed. This pose allows you to fully release and let go of all muscular work.
But Savasana is not about falling asleep! While you are relaxing, stay present by focusing your attention on your natural breathing as it flows in and out of your body. Thoughts may come into your mind, just gently let them go and come back to focus on your breath.
An eye pillow is a wonderful addition to your Savasana, shielding your eyes from visual stimulation, and the gentle weight helps to calm your mind.
Discover the HUM Yoga Bolster collection, round and rectangular. Our bolsters are mindfully made here in Canada. The removable covers are made from 100% organic cotton in our own custom-designed, high-vibe prints, and filled with 100% cotton batting. We prefer a longer length to accommodate all spines, and leave plenty of space to rest your head.
And if you'd like to learn more about props, their origin and how you can use them, read more on 6 Essential Yoga Props to Support Your Practice.
Thanks for your support!!! :)
And thanks to my beautiful yoginis, Jennifer Reaburn (@jenreaburnyoga) and Sonja Denelzen (@zennomad). Photographed at Cedar Healing Arts Retreat Centre.
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