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7 Yoga Poses With a Bolster For a Restorative Practice

9 min read
a woman is sitting on the floor with her legs wide in a split, lying on a yoga bolster, with her hands in a heart shape_yoga poses with a bolster
Chetendeep Micky Lal post Reviewer Chetendeep Micky Lal post Reviewer
MA in Kinesiology, CSCS, Registered Yoga Teacher

Try these yoga poses with a bolster to rejuvenate your body & release tension. Adopt restorative yoga to reset and recover after a long day.

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Restorative yoga is a yoga practice that includes passive stretches for full-body opening and relaxation. One way to make your practice more restorative and relaxing is by adding a bolster.

A yoga bolster will help you relax deeper into your poses, so you can feel a strong release of tension in your muscles – which also helps with emotional release. Read on to discover how to incorporate this prop into your next session. 

In this article, we will go through some of our favorite yoga poses with a bolster to inspire your own restorative routine.

What’s a Yoga Bolster, and When Might You Need One?

A yoga bolster is a large pillow used to support your body in yoga poses.

It is firm and heavy, which makes it a much more useful option than a regular cushion for most poses. Bolsters are usually rectangular, but you can also find circular designs.

So, what is a yoga bolster used for?

Although you don’t technically need a bolster, it is a common prop used in several yoga styles and can be very helpful. Here are some of the most common yoga bolster uses:

  • Iyengar yoga. The first person to introduce practicing yoga with a bolster was B.K.S. Iyengar. Since Iyengar yoga is strongly focused on attaining perfect alignment, a bolster can help students who wouldn’t be able to achieve that without props. Bolsters are still used in Iyengar yoga today.
  • Yin yoga with a bolster. Bolsters are a common prop in yin yoga. Yin yoga is a relaxing type of yoga that involves long holds. Bolsters help you fully relax in the poses and release tension in deep tissues.
  • Restorative yoga with a bolster.  Restorative yoga classes also often include bolsters as they help students get deeper into a stretch and can provide support and comfort for those who are recovering from an injury or have other physical conditions and limitations.
  • Other implementations. Yoga bolster positions are also frequently done in prenatal yoga and are becoming more common in physiotherapy. If you are investing in a bolster for yourself, that shows your dedication to the practice. 

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7 Yoga Poses With a Bolster

a chart with restorative yoga poses with a bolster

Here are 7 yoga poses with a bolster we recommend for a restorative yoga practice.

Feel free to hold them as long as you want and feel comfortable. In fact, restorative yoga practice implies holding each pose for 10 to 15 minutes or longer, so your whole practice may include only a few poses.

Seated Forward Bend

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_seated forward bend_yoga poses with a bolster

Seated Forward Bend is a wonderful pose for relieving back, hamstring, and hip tension. It’s one of the best yoga bolster stretches for when you want to feel a deep release in your body. Practicing with a bolster can help you relax more into the pose and minimize any discomfort that prevents you from holding it for longer. 

This pose is common in yin yoga because it allows you to become completely passive in the forward fold and tap into deeper tissues of the back and the back of the legs.

How to Practice:

  • Sit in Staff Pose with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Place the bolster on your thighs. 
  • Now fold forward and rest your torso on the bolster. Stretch your arms forward, next to your legs.
  • You can either place your forehead on the bolster or alternate between both cheeks (switch sides in the middle of your practice).

Head To Knee Forward Bend

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_head to knee forward bend_yoga poses with a bolster

This asana has a similar effect as the previous one but also involves a hip opener. It is a fantastic pose for opening your hamstrings, entire back, and hips. 

However, it is pretty challenging to go into a deep forward bend with one knee opened to the side, and it is uncomfortable for some students to just let their head hang above the thigh.

Practicing this yoga pose with a bolster can help you rest your head and fully relax into the pose, even if you have tight hamstrings.

How to Practice:

  • Sit in Staff Pose with your legs stretched in front of you.
  • Keep the right leg straight and bend the left knee, opening it to the side and placing the foot into the right inner thigh.
  • Rotate towards the stretched right leg and place the bolster on top of it.
  • Slowly bend forward, rounding your spine, and placing your forehead on the bolster.
  • Rest your arms next to your thigh.
  • Make sure to repeat the pose for the same amount of time on the other side.

Child’s Pose

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_Childs pose__yoga poses with a bolster

Child’s Pose is one of the most common yoga bolster poses you’ll encounter in yin or restorative yoga classes. This soothing asana gently opens your back and hips and is often recommended to release the stress of the day and relax before sleep.

A bolster can help you decrease the intensity of the stretch and focus on fully relaxing your torso instead. This may be particularly useful if you want to practice this restorative pose for longer.

How to Practice:

  • Kneel on the floor, with your knees spread wide apart and your feet relaxed on the floor.
  • Place the bolster in front of your hips, between your knees.
  • Now fold forward, resting your upper body and head on the bolster, and relax.
  • You can place one cheek on the bolster, but make sure you alternate between cheeks. 

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Bridge Pose

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_bridge pose__yoga poses with a bolster

Bridge Pose is a wonderful yoga bolster chest opener. It offers a supple way to strengthen your back and release tension from your shoulders

There are many variations of this asana, and you can also do it with other props, such as a yoga wheel. Practicing with a bolster, however, is ideal if you want a more passive variation that focuses primarily on opening your chest and stretching your spine.

How to Practice:

  • Start lying on your back. Place the bolster below your hips, parallel to the shorter side of your mat. 
  • Walk your feet in towards you, bending at the knee.
  • The bolster will hold your hips up, so you can focus on releasing tension and opening the front side of your upper body.
  • Alternatively, you can also extend your legs and relax your feet.

Legs Up The Wall Pose

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_legs up the wall pose_yoga poses with a bolster

Legs Up The Wall Pose is a mild inversion and is commonly done as an alternative to the full Candle Pose. It provides a deep release for the lower back and boosts blood circulation in the body.

However, some may struggle to completely relax in this pose with their back flat on the mat, especially if they are practicing the asana without a wall. How to use a yoga bolster here? Use it to support your lower back to hold the asana longer. 

How to Practice:

  • Lie on your back. Bring your feet close to your hips and lift the hips so you can place the bolster beneath your lower back.
  • Rest your arms to the side, relax the neck, and slowly lift your legs up so they are facing the sky.
  • You can practice this asana in front of a wall, and rest your feet on the wall for even more support. 
  • You can keep your hands on the bolster or spread them out to the sides.

Explore other yoga inversions for a more diverse and challenging practice.

Reclining Butterfly Pose

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_reclining butterfly pose_yoga poses with a bolster

Reclining Butterfly is a beautiful hip opener that simultaneously stretches the lower back, chest, and adductors.

Add a bolster to this pose to transform it into a restorative one. Here, we suggest using the bolster as support for your back. However, you can also use bolsters or regular cushions to support your knees in this pose and relax your body even more.

How to Practice:

  • Lie back on the bolster. Bend your knees, then open your hips like in Butterfly Pose.
  • Rest your arms on the sides of your body.
  • Relax your hips. If this position doesn’t feel comfortable in your hips, we recommend adding cushions under the knees for additional support.
  • For restorative practice, hold this pose for 3 to 5 minutes.

Corpse Pose

a woman is practicing restorative yoga_Corpse pose__yoga poses with a bolster

After completing a whole sequence of yoga poses with a bolster, end the session on the same note – with Corpse Pose. This asana helps relax your entire body, so it’s recommended to practice it after any yoga session, especially an intense one.

Using a bolster in Savasana can help you if you struggle to fully relax or if you feel any discomfort in your lower back or legs. 

How to Practice:

  • Sit on your mat and place the bolster below your knees, so the longer side is parallel with the shorter side of your mat.
  • Now slowly lie down on your back.
  • Allow your legs to sink into the bolster and fully relax, and open your arms to the side. 
  • With every breath, try to release deeper into the pose.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it – the best restorative yoga poses with a bolster. Here are some key takeaways about practicing yoga with a bolster:  

  • Bolster yoga poses are perfect for restorative sessions because they allow you to fully relax your body and release tension.
  • A bolster can also help you achieve poses that would otherwise be too challenging.
  • You can create your own sequence with the poses we mentioned above or use additional tools like a yoga app to help you create an entire restorative class. 
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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