Which Yoga Bolster Is Right For Me?

Round Enlight Bolster being used in Child's Pose - Manduka | Eco Yoga Store

A yoga bolster is a dense pillow of varying sizes and fillings, and is a supportive prop used to enhance relaxation, deepen stretches and support parts of the body in different asanas during your yoga practice.

Choosing a yoga bolster is arguably a tougher decision than choosing a yoga mat!

We are frequently asked “Which yoga bolster is right for me?” Unlike yoga mats where we can ask a few questions and determine which option is perfect for you, for yoga bolsters, whilst there are some guidelines to help you choose, there are no hard and fast rules, making the decision very much one of personal preference.

As an example, we know two physically similar sisters, both practice the same styles of yoga, often together, and one uses a round bolster, the other a rectangular bolster, and neither will swap for the other!

So how do you choose?

Yoga bolsters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as do we, and your choice is really about understanding your physical requirements and how you intend to use the bolster? Oh, and there’s a third consideration too, “what colour?”, often the more difficult decision!

To add to the confusion there can be many different shapes and sizes when we are searching, but not to get sidetracked, there are four main shapes that should receive our attention, the rest, well, let’s just say that they are “specialised” and probably best avoided by the majority of us.

So, what are the four main shapes?

Line-up of Yoga Bolsters - Round, Rectangle, Pranayama, Round Mini | Eco Yoga Store

Round Bolster - A cylindrical bolster ideal for gentle backbends and chest opening, and when trying to create a curve in the body round bolsters offer the best support. Often used as a prop for Savasana, placed underneath the knees for increased comfort and blood flow.

Rectangle Bolster - A versatile bolster that is a bit more secure since it is not going to move or roll while in use, offering more targeted support for specific areas like knees or neck. Often used with blocks for Restorative poses to deepen relaxation.

Pranayama / Rectangular Lean Bolster - Narrower and slimmer, combines some of the benefits of both Round and Rectangle, a hybrid-shaped bolster that is both curved and flat for a variety of uses. Designed for breathwork and targeted stretches, it can also easily be combined with other rectangular bolsters and blocks for customizable support.

Round Mini Bolster - Super functional and versatile, this small round bolster provides perfect support for many yoga postures. Provides comfort during practice as a mini cushion to remove pressure of the knees and elbows, and a great pillow under the head during Savasana. It is also firm enough to replace a block, but offers some cushioning instead of a hard edge!
When trying to decide which of these shapes is the most suitable for you, consider your body size and shape, as you will want a bolster that allows you to comfortably rest parts of your body on it, so don’t ignore the physical dimensions of the bolster when making your choice.

Insider Tip: Tribe Yoga Bolsters are size adjustable as you can remove or add filling!

Ask yourself, how does your intended use align with your physical requirements?

There are a multitude of ways that a bolster can be incorporated into your yoga practice, and here are six of the more common uses with some of the asanas that they can assist with:

  1. Supporting Poses - a bolster can be placed under different parts of your body to alleviate strain and to help you relax into the pose:
    • In Restorative Yoga you can place a bolster under your back for the Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana), or under your knees for Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana)
    • In Yin Yoga, you can place a bolster under your chest or forehead in Child’s Pose (Balasana) or under your hips in Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
  2. Deepening Stretches - providing a stable surface to rest or lean on a bolster can help you deepen your stretch:
    • In Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) you can place a bolster under your front thigh for support and to intensify the stretch in hip flexors
    • In Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) you can rest your torso on a bolster to release tension in your lower back and hamstrings
  3. Relaxation & Meditation - bolsters are a great prop during relaxation and meditation practices to help the body feel supported and comfortable as you hold your pose for extended periods:
    • In Corpse Pose (Savasana) you can place a bolster under your knees or back while lying down to promote relaxation and stress relief in your lower back
    • In Hero Pose (Virasana) you can sit on a bolster placed in between your legs to make the pose more comfortable and allow for accurate circulation
  4. Breathing Exercises - use a bolster to allow you to comfortably recline or to support your seated pose thereby helping to expand your chest and diaphragm fully to facilitate deeper breaths.
  5. Alignment - our strength and flexibility will differ from person to person and a bolster can provide support, reduce strain on our body, and help us to maintain alignment in poses, especially when developing a pose for the first time.
  6. Inversions - we’re not all going to attempt inversion asanas, especially when beginning our yoga journeys, but a bolster can provide additional stability and safety when we do, especially for shoulder stands or headstands.
Drawing showing 7 yoga asanas using a yoga bolster | Eco Yoga Store

Once we’ve considered our physical shape and our intended use for the bolster we should be able to decide on the bolster shape, it’s then about the filling. We want our bolster to be firm enough to offer support but soft enough for comfort.

Now, there are many filling options out there and believe us when we say that we’ve probably tried them all, and sure, there is a case to be made for many. What we are looking for here is a bolster that feels like a stuffed pillow - firm enough for stability but soft enough for comfort, over the years we’ve narrowed our preference to two options:

Kapok - our Tribe Yoga Bolsters provide a firm yet comfortable support, softer than wool and cotton, and conforms to your body shape. As a bonus, kapok is super sustainable, environmentally friendly, natural, hypoallergenic and breathable.

Foam - our Manduka Enlight Yoga Bolsters have a foam core and cotton fibre padding, providing soft to medium support with great cushioning and retaining their shape after use, as well as being super lightweight.

So, now we know the shape, the size, and the filling that’s going to suit our practice, what's left? Many would say “just the colour”, but we would also suggest that you want to consider some practicalities too:

  • A removable and washable cover, and also one that is durable, and you will want a material that is breathable and comfortable against your skin. All of our bolster covers are either organic cotton or microfibre, and all can be removed for ease of cleaning, or simply because you fancy a change of colour!
  • Handles! This might seem like a strange consideration, especially as all of our bolsters are lightweight when compared to many, but a handle makes it far easier to carry your bolster to and from your practice, or simply to store and retrieve. The good news is that all of our bolsters have handles by design.

Finally, it’s all about the colour, and maybe a pattern too?

We're certainly not going to suggest which colour is right for you, how could we know? We’re happy to help with selecting the size, shape, filling, and cover material, but the colour, that’s absolutely down to you!

Over the years we’ve been asked for all colours of the rainbow and all hues in between, and we’re sure that the requests will keep coming, but for now, we can offer 30+ colour options and a couple of patterns as well, so fingers crossed there’s one there for you?

With your yoga bolster sorted it's time to practice. Your new bolster can enhance your practice by providing stability, relaxation, and gentle support; just remember, that when using your bolster, it is essential to listen to your body and adjust its placement to suit your comfort level and needs.

Over time you will discover various ways to incorporate your bolster into your practice to enhance your overall yoga experience.

Female yogi using a bolster in reclined angle pose on her yoga mat | Eco Yoga Store