If you’ve ever done a class that required a few “advanced” positions, you most likely though about how nice it would be if you had some support. When I first started training in flexibility, I could barely touch my toes and it felt like my hammies were going to snap like rubber bands.
Needless to say I quickly learned that a block or bolster was the way to go. So I turned to trying some different items and, at this stage, feel like I can give you some solid input on choosing the best yoga bolster for your practice and style.
Here’s the quick answer:
- Best Overall: Hugger Mugger Round Bolster
- Most Versatile: Hugger Mugger Standard Bolster
- Most Firm: Yoga Accessories Round Cotton
- Best Premium: Bean Products Yoga Bolster
- Best For Studio Owners: YogaAccessories Rectangular Cotton Bolster
- Best For Restorative Yoga: Waterglider International Pranamaya Bolster
- Best For Smaller People: YogaAccessories Pranayama Cotton Bolster
What’s the Purpose of a Yoga Bolster?
Can you do yoga without a pillow? Yes. Should you? That depends on your level of flexibility and style of yoga. You may feel like using a prop is cheating or you might base your practice on what others around you are doing. Here’s the thing, that person may have been practicing for years, they may have been a gymnast before or they may not know what they’re doing.
If you use tools early on, you can actually get ahead of the pack – and do it safely. The proper equipment can deepen your back-bends without putting strain on your lower back; a yoga wheel can help you with inverted positions, and of course, your yoga mat is a tool right?
Benefits of a Yoga Pillow / Bolster
1. Support – While you’re working on flexibility, a support pillow can be a wonderful tool. They can be placed under your lower back to release tension during back-bends and bridge pose for example. This is especially useful if you have back problems and/or haven’t yet developed the core strength for advanced yoga positions.
2. Posture – Using a yoga pillow or bolster in certain positions helps to elevate your rear while putting your knees lower than your hips. This is very important in maintaining an erect spine during both yoga and meditation.
3. Flexibility – Have you ever tried to do a split before you could actually do a split? Everyone has. What ends up happening is you put your muscles and tendons in a position they’re not ready for so they tense up right at the worst time. This is what leads to many yoga injuries and it’s something that can be prevented by using the bolster as a middle ground while training your flexibility.
4. Opens the chest – A bolster is often used to support the back and open the chest. This results in an enhanced breathing and opening of the heart center. It also helps you get the best stretch on the chest muscles and set your shoulders back – which can relieve tension in the upper back from stress and sitting too long.
Types of Yoga Bolsters
Standard – The standard pillow is a rectangular shape with a wide flat top that’s used in most restorative yoga practices. They have a durable covering which is sometimes removable and washable. An important note is that because these are used in many supportive positions, the one you get must be firm so that it doesn’t sag or droop when propped against something.
Round – The round yoga bolster is a large cylinder pillow that’s usually about 10” in diameter. They can be placed under the knees, they’re great for straddling (such as in learning the splits), under your upper back for opening the ribs to deepen your breath and in a number of other positions. They’re a versatile and comfortable alternative to a standard yoga bolster.
Pranayama Pillows – These are just like a round bolster but smaller in diameter (anywhere from 3 – 6 inches high). This pillow is specifically designed for breathing exercises and doesn’t offer the same versatility as the other bolsters.
Zafu – Some people use the zafu as both a yoga bolster and meditation cushion. I personally prefer to use the round or standard bolster for yoga but if you’re also a regular meditator you can see our review of the best zafu’s here.
The Best Yoga Bolsters Reviewed
1. YogaAccessories Supportive Round Cotton Yoga Bolster
The round bolster from YogaAccessories is one of the most versatile cushions. It’s currently offered in multiple bright and neutral colors, weighs 6 lbs and measures 28 x 10 inches in length / width. It’s cotton filled and the cover is 100% cotton which is machine washable for easy cleaning.
The bolster feels very durable and heavy enough to be taken seriously without being so heavy that you don’t want to lug it around. It also has carrying handles on both ends for easy transport. The cotton cover feels durable enough to last for years while remaining soft against your skin.
The only dislike about this product is that it’s actually larger than the described size. YogaAccessories states that “because they are filled with cotton, the actual measurements are slightly bigger.” This is fine for most people since the cotton will settle but you could also remove cotton if you feel its too big.
The zippered case is removable and easy to machine wash on cold and line dry. We always prefer bolsters with removable covers because…well, if you’re using it, its going to get dirty and need to be cleaned.
Overall this is a high quality product that provides high density for support while remaining comfortable and it should last you for several years.
- Lots of color options
- Removable cover / machine washable
- Carrying handles on both ends
- 100% cotton
- Can add or remove cotton anytime
- Affordably priced at the time of this writing
- Extra firm – provides plenty of support
- You have to hang dry the cover
- Larger than advertised
2. Hugger Mugger Round Yoga Bolster
Hugger Mugger is quickly becoming a household name in yoga tools. For every item you buy from their store, a percentage of sales goes to support a different charity every year. The Hugger Mugger round comes in 5 colors at the time of this writing, features a solid foam core surrounded by cotton batting, removable cover and carrying handles on both ends.
Its dense without being “hard” and has a quality feel and weight to it. The cotton cover can be easily removed for machine washing and must be line dried. Always line dry your bolster covers and wash in cold water. Otherwise you could end up with a shrunken cover that won’t fit back on your bolster.
After continued use, the Hugger Mugger yoga bolster maintains its shape without becoming squishy and doesn’t break down like lesser quality products. If a bolster breaks down after using, it becomes useless and frustrating so its something we pay special attention to. In short, its a deal breaker if this happens. We love that the Hugger Mugger holds its ground even after many uses.
The only dislike is that, at this time, it’s slightly more expensive than other bolsters but, alas, you always pay for quality…and you’re supporting charity. So I can’t complain too much. Overall this is a solid product that will maintain its shape and last you for many years of use in your yoga studio.
- Made in the USA
- Eco-friendly materials
- You can add / remove stuffing
- Machine washable cover
- Solid foam core surrounded by cotton batting
- 25 x 9 x 9 inches
- Upholstery grade cover
- Great for restorative yoga
- Very comfortable
- Cover must be line dried
- Currently slightly more expensive
3. Hugger Mugger Standard Yoga Bolster