Yoga and meditation bolsters have many practical uses and are increasingly being incorporated in classes, as well as in at-home Yoga practices. They are also known by various names, as they have a multitude of uses, some of which include; pregnancy pillows, support cushions, and/or meditation cushions.
There are many types of Yoga bolsters on the market, varying in size, shape, density and filling. Choosing the right one, for the right purpose, can sometimes be overwhelming. What are the differences? And what are they best used for? Which one will do what you need it to do?
Below we compare the variations to not only help you understand what they are, but also to help you choose the right bolster for you and your needs.
The most traditional style of bolster is the round bolster. They are a good all-rounder, as they’re usually quite firm and can be used for various purposes, some of which include: to assist as a meditation bolster, for support in backbends, as well as for stretching in Yin classes. They also can be used in massage therapy too, being able to support underneath the knees to help with pressure being applied during the massage, as well as helping with circulation in the legs. They can, however, be difficult to lie on comfortably, as you can find yourself rolling off to one side given the rounded shape. This can affect your practice if you’re trying to relax into a posture.
The Oval/Rectangular shaped bolsters are a lot wider than their rounded counterparts. Because of this, they also offer more support during stretching and relaxation. They are also more stable as they don’t roll around. Being as wide as the body, you have excellent support whilst stretching supine or seated and folded forwards.
These shapes make great meditation cushions as well, especially if you can find a bolster that is about 10-15 cm high. This will allow you the perfect height to support your lower back, yet be able to get your knees closer to the ground as you are in meditation.
This type is also perfect for use as a pregnancy support due to its comfort and size. We find that expecting mothers really enjoy Mirosuna bolsters for this reason.
Due to the larger size of round/square bolsters, they take up more room than rounded bolsters, but offer greater overall support, especially as they can be used as a head support cushion during Savasana or laying mediation without straining the neck.
The V-Shape bolster is a more specialised cushion predominately offering thigh and hip support. They work well as a meditation cushion and can also act as a support cushion between the thighs if you have achy hips whilst sleeping, or whilst pregnant.
They cannot, however, easily be used like traditional bolsters and can’t really be used effectively to help with stretching postures due to their size and shape.
The filling of a bolster can significantly alter its density, affecting its uses and comfort. The most common fillings include Polyester, Cotton, Buckwheat, or Foam, and all of them come with their own benefits when considering variance in support, hygiene, pliability, and softness.
Polyester is both a popular and common filling for bolsters as it comes with an array of benefits. This filling is incredibly comfortable, warm, can be easily compressed/stuffed to achieve the right density, can be machine washed and dried, and also dries relatively quickly compared to other fillings.
They are best for soft to medium bolsters, which makes it a great option if you’re looking for a supportive yet comfortable support cushion or pregnancy cushion, or if you wish to use your bolster for stretching and relaxation.
Polyester bolsters can flatten over time depending on the density, but you can easily re-fluff them back up during a clean!
Much like polyester, cotton is a great all-rounder as a filling for a bolster. It provides adequate support and comfort, and can also be easily cleaned. It does, however, take a lot longer to dry than polyester fillings, and can even become hard over time/shrink if not properly looked after.
Cotton is also considered breathable making the bolster cooler overall, so this comes down to preference if you like to be cool or warm during your stretching routine. Cotton fillings also make for a great option in pregnancy and support pillows as they are hypoallergenic, but tend to be one of the more expensive options, especially with larger sized bolsters.
Buckwheat fillings are a long-lasting and durable choice for bolsters or meditation cushions. However, they take a little more ‘getting used to’ compared with polyester or cotton fibers, as their shape can change quite easily due to being so malleable.
This malleability means that they can give adequate support once everything is settled in the right place for you. Buckwheat has a natural odour as well, which can be seen as positive or negative depending on your preference.
This filling tends to make a noise when used and is, unfortunately, less able to be washed (not great for allergies or shared spaces) as the buckwheat hulls weaken affecting their stability and form holding over time.
The weight of buckwheat bolsters is also considerably heavier than their counterparts, making them great support if you don’t plan on moving them often.
Foam bolsters are very supportive and firm, making them great as a supportive tool. They can assist greatly in inversions, for alignment, and in backbends, as they do not change their shape once you’re in a posture, nor compress too much.
They do not, however, work so well for comfort or relaxation as foam doesn’t compress in the same way as polyester or cotton, making them not the best choice for pregnancy pillows, or if you want to use them for stretching or relaxation.
Foam bolsters are also very durable, meaning that they will last a long time, but may not easily be washed/cleaned as they need to be hand-washed/vacuumed.
The outside of the bolster is an important factor as it determines how soft, durable, and comfortable the overall bolster is. They tend to be either made from polyester or cotton, but there are also combinations of suede/velvet that are available.
Cotton is incredibly soft, breathable, and durable as a fabric choice for a bolster. It can also be highly customisable in terms of colouring and patterns, and it is one of the more eco-friendly choices.
Cotton is highly absorptive, making the bolster absorb moisture, as well as smell, over time, which may not be the best option for a studio setting if the bolsters are not cleaned regularly.
Care needs to be taken when washing cotton fabric as it tends to shrink and wrinkle, so if you have a densely filled bolster the insides may become more difficult to fit in over time.
Polyester is again, a great all-rounder as a bolster fabric. It is very durable, flexible, has great sweat-wicking properties, and also can be easily cleaned/dried quickly.
Unlike other fabric choices, polyester does not shrink over time, meaning that it is long-lasting and will keep its shape. Even though polyester is great at absorbing moisture like cotton, it also dries rapidly meaning that the bolster stays dryer after use (better for allergies).
Polyester, however, sometimes is critiqued as being less environmentally friendly than other choices, but with regards to its use as a fabric on a bolster, it is the most durable and easiest to clean, meaning it can be used for longer without the need of a replacement.
This fabric is very soft and is aesthetically one of the most pleasing due to its luxurious look. Suede velvet however is very difficult to clean as it does not resist staining and requires a lot of steps to clean, as the washing process can damage the material.
It also isn’t very water-resistant, making it not the best choice for relaxing/meditation cushions as they come into contact with sweat often.
This material also tends to wear out quickly with rough use, so may also not be the best option when choosing a bolster overall.
A firm bolster is the best choice for providing excellent support, especially during inversions and backbends.
Firm bolsters may not however be the most comfortable if using for relaxation, meditation, or stretching, as they do not mold as easily to the body and can be hard to lie on.
A medium bolster offers the perfect balance between support and comfort, allowing them to be used for most activates that require the use of a bolster.
If you’re looking for a comfortable stretch, meditation or relaxation whilst being supported at the same time, then a medium bolster is the best choice.
Most bolsters need to be either medium or firm to provide any support, so this density is not the best choice for a bolster. Whilst this works great for pillows providing comfort, the lack of support in a bolster can lead to potential discomfort and injury if used for inversions, seated meditation, or stretching.
Some bolsters come with handles that offer better transportability and can be carried much easier than those without. Though not necessary if you are not moving them around, most new bolsters have this as a feature so that they’re not so cumbersome due to their size and you can avoid always carrying them under your arm!
Look for handles on both ends of the bolster instead of just one. This will make it easier for you to handle your bolster wherever it is.
If your filling can be changed-out in your bolster, no doubt your bolster will have a zipper. But have you ever considered that the placement of the zipper can affect its use and comfort in practice?
Zips or openings will either run lengthways (along the longer side of the bolster) or at one end. If you want to be able to take your cover off easily and fit your bolster back inside it, you want to look for a zipper or opening that runs lengthwise.
If zips or openings are not well concealed, sometimes you may catch yourself or your clothing on them. So you want to find a bolster where the zip is nicely hidden or even placed on the bottom so that you can avoid this and practice without worry.
Mirosuna has custom-designed its own bolsters that combines the best elements and features of those listed above. They are functional and soft not saggy. They offer great support, are highly comfortable and durable both inside and out. The bolster are best used as a meditation cushion, a pregnancy pillow, and also as a support cushion for Yin Yoga, inversions, relaxation and stretching. Shop Mirosuna Bolsters now.