I have two dachshunds. They love (and deserve) the finer things in life. Anything that remotely resembles soft-furnishings in my house is theirs for the snoozing.
But not my linen yoga bolster. Want to know why?
Firstly, it’s not a pillow.
Can I use a pillow instead of a yoga bolster?
Some people may choose to, and for the sake of practicality may need to, if they don’t have a bolster. But you won’t get the same effect. A pillow is softer and designed for you to ‘sink into’ - a bolster is designed to do the opposite.
Sure, if you don’t have a bolster at home a pillow is an okay make-do substitute, but it doesn’t quite do the same job as a bolster. Why not? Let’s dive a little deeper…
What is a yoga bolster?
A yoga bolster is a firm cushion that aids in the practice of restorative yoga poses. Often cylindrical but sometimes rectangular, a bolster will provide comfort and support during stretching and deep-breathing exercises. Used to lift and support the body, bolsters promote stress relief and help open up your body (particularly the chest, depending on the pose), to help you breathe deeply and rejuvenate.
What are yoga bolsters made of?
Yoga bolsters can be made from a variety of materials, including firm cotton, buckwheat hulls, and in some cases a synthetic polyester or foam. In the interest of longevity and sustainable, natural materials, it’s best to look for a bolster with a cotton filling. While cotton will naturally soften over time, it won’t deflate or ‘wear out’ in the same way that synthetics will.
Similarly, bolsters are available with a range of cover materials and designs. I love linen not only because it is the strongest natural fibre in the world; it’s also breathable, hypo-allergenic, moisture-wicking, and naturally anti-bacterial. Linen works in perfect harmony with your body: when you’re hot, it helps you cool down, and when you need warmth, it retains your body’s heat and keeps you cosy.
There’s also the fact that linen just feels wonderful. It’s beautifully soft, sensual and luxurious, and it’s important to surround yourself with things that help you connect to and stay grounded within your daily rituals. That’s why I love to add linen, rather than a synthetic, into the mix.
I designed Kin’s yoga bolsters because I wasn't happy with what was available on the market. I wanted a bolster that could be left on the sofa, that would match my decor and feel like an everyday luxury rather than something I hid under the sofa until it was time to do yoga.
Speaking of keeping your yoga bolster on the sofa, consider:
Other uses for your yoga bolster:
A daily reminder to pause, stretch and breathe.
Think of your bolster as a post-it note that reads: ‘stop, for a moment’. Whether you’re working from home: be it at a desk or as a full-time carer, it’s inevitable that sometimes the lines will blur between what we think we should be doing, and what our body needs us to do. Visual cues remind us that when life (and your mind!) hands you a cacophony of to-do, you need to reflect and focus on what your body is asking you.
Keeping your yoga bolster in sight: on your favourite chair, beside your coffee table, or on your bed, acts as a gentle prompt to stop and journey inwards.
Good habits need constant reminders … our brain easily distracts us–it’s our consciousness, and our rituals, that keeps us on track.
A way to build strength, not slouch.
The benefits of using a yoga bolster can be applied to other practices in your day. When I’m connecting with my family at the end of the day over a pot of tea, sitting and reading a book, I sometimes use my yoga bolster rather than the sofa. I either sit in a straddle or use it as a low-level chair with my legs out straight, or bent with my feet flat on the ground. This way I keep my chest open, my chin and neck stay straight and not curled down onto myself, my breathing stays deep and my posture feels much better than it does if I were to recline. A way to invite balance and open up. This isn’t a metaphor, although it sounds like one.
After a few hours spent at my desk, my spine feels compressed and my shoulders have likely turned inward - then, I look up from my work and see my bolster (my visual cue!), and take a moment to quickly lie with it under my spine, and let my arms fall toward the ground. Almost immediately I feel the relief of having my core open up, oxygen flows freely again, my vertebrae ease back into position, and I feel the tension melt away from the yoke of my neck.
A way to level-up my workout.
I’ve been practising mat pilates at home for months now, and recently my teacher called upon us to pull out our bolster to level-up some of our exercises. You can use bolsters for standing balance work, propped under your butt for a killer glute workout (how many bridges can you do?), as well as a support for more challenging (read: excruciating) ab exercises.
A way to make family mealtimes into a joyful gathering, not just a ‘feeding time’.
As we navigate the last of winter, my thoughts have been turning more and more to picnics, sunshine, and eating al fresco. It’s not a very viable option at the moment– so, I like to get creative and bring the experience indoors.
Eating meals together at the dining table is a wonderful way to stay connected with your family, and if you’ve all spent the day working (or figuring out complex Grade Four maths problems!), it can be a good way to set things aside and thoughtfully ‘check-in’ with each other.
So I thought–I’ve levelled-up my workouts, I’m utilising visual cues in my daily rhythm– I bet I can use the same principles to heighten the everyday dinner experience, as well.
Enter … yep. My yoga bolster. Now, our evenings are spent gathered around the coffee table in our living room, sitting low to the ground on mats, cushions, me on my bolster, enjoying ‘floor picnics’. I adore these times: there’s something so much more intimate about sitting closely together, and sharing food–reaching over each other to grab another serving of something delicious. It’s close, and deeply personal, and not ‘perfect’ but it is wholly human.