How to Choose the Best Yoga Bolster For Your Practice

best yoga bolster

You probably already know that a good-quality mat can make a massive difference to your yoga practice. However, there are a lot more props that you can use to deepen your practice, and bolsters are one of them.

A good yoga bolster can be especially beneficial in Restorative and Yin Practice, as well as in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. It also can be useful if you have joint issues.

Buying a yoga bolster may seem like a walk in the park. Yet, there are many varieties to choose from, that it can become a little confusing. They also can be rather pricey.

Therefore, I’ve created a guide for choosing the best yoga bolster for your needs.

How to Choose the Best Yoga Bolster

I looked at a variety of different brands while writing this post, and they all offer slightly different sizes and dimensions. I compared them and drew the averages to give you a general idea. 

1. Different Kinds of Yoga Bolsters

While yoga bolsters generally are very similar, there are differences that can determine how versatile and comfortable they are.

Standard Yoga Bolsters

These are rectangular, with dimensions about 64 cm L x 30 cm W x 15 cm H (25” L x 11” W x 6” H). They are wide and flat. Positioned underneath the back, they’ll provide support for most of it.

Standard bolsters are the most versatile. When placed flat, they will raise your body at a gentle angle, but, placed on the edge, they’ll give a more profound elevation.

Because of their rectangular shape, you can also sit on them in seated postures and seated forward bends. Also, they can provide solid support in meditation postures.

Due to the reasons above, they are the most common type and the best to go for if you’re looking for your first ever yoga bolster. That’s also the type I own and prefer to use in my personal practice.

Some companies have oval or rectangular yoga bolsters, which are the same as or very similar to the standard ones.

Round Yoga Bolsters

They are cylindrical with approximately 23 cm (9”) in diameter and 69 cm (27”) in length. Round yoga bolsters are larger, heavier, and usually longer than the standard ones, and tend to be better suited for more advanced practice.

They can provide different benefits to the body. For instance, if placed under the back, they lift the spine higher and have the sides, arms, and shoulders hang down. Or you may feel more comfortable when placing one under your knees in reclined postures, such as Savasana.

Round yoga bolsters are also suitable for seated postures; you’ll sit higher, but may feel less stable because of their round shape.

If you can’t decide between a round and a standard yoga bolster, I would advise you to go for a standard one. However, if you’d like to get several, purchase one of each and switch between the two for different effects.

Pranayama Yoga Bolsters

These are a longer and thinner variation of the standard bolster (approximately 65 cm L x 16 cm W x 6 cm H or 25” L x 7” W x 3” H). Initially, they were designed according to the instructions of BKS Iyengar for the practice of pranayama in supine positions.

They gently elevate the chest and are frequently used together with a folded blanket.

Because of their smaller size, you can also use them as cushioning in kneeling postures, below the knees in Savasana, or to provide support in gentle passive backbends.

Pranayama bolsters can substitute standard or round bolsters if you find them too large. Manduka and some other brands have lean bolsters, but they are pretty much the same (or very similar).

Small Rectangular Yoga Bolsters

These are a smaller version of the rectangular yoga bolster measuring about 60 cm L x 20 cm W x 12 cm H (23” L x 8” W x 5” H), which can be used as an alternative for a standard one if that feels too much.

They are sometimes called junior bolsters and can be an option for kids to use.

Small Round Yoga Bolsters

Called junior round yoga bolster by some manufacturers, this kind is an excellent substitute if you like using the round bolster, but its size is too much for you.

They are either the same length or slightly shorter than their bigger brothers and about 18 cm or 7” in diameter.

Children can also use them if they choose to join you for some yoga.

Zafus

While not really bolsters, they can be a useful prop for your meditation practice.

Zafus are round cushions around 38 cm (15”) in diameter and 12 cm (5”) in height. You can sit on one to elevate your hips and have an easier time holding your back straight during meditation.

Zafus come in a myriad of colors, prints, and patterns. So, if you’re looking for a good reason to start a meditation practice, they can be one.

While round zafus are the most popular kind of meditation cushions, you can find V-shaped and square ones, too.

Zabutons

These can be the ultimate upgrade for your meditation practice. If you use a zafu and your bum and back will feel nice and cushy, but your legs and knees feel left out chilling on the floor, that’s a problem that a zabuton can solve.

They are large square or rectangular cushions that go under the zafus. Zabutons measure about 76 cm L x 76 cm W x 8 cm H (30” L x 30” L x 3” H). You can also get creative and use them in Shoulder Stand or other posture practice.

If you are like me and are into India inspired designs, check out this brand. They use Rajasthan-themed prints and patterns, and you can mix and match their zafus and zabutons.

2. Firmness

When choosing the best yoga bolster, you need to make sure that it’s firm and dense enough to provide a sense of stability and support. Yet, at the same time, it should be soft enough for you to stay comfortable.

So, basically, it needs to feel like a really stuffed pillow and should keep its shape after you’ve laid or sat on top of it.

If you get a chance, pop into your local yoga studio or a store that sells yoga goods. Touch and squeeze a few bolsters and get a better idea of what I mean.

3. Materials

Bolster developers tend to fuse practicality with sustainability. They try to ensure that their products are as environmentally friendly as possible, provide sufficient support and stability in yoga practice, don’t weigh a ton, and are easy to take care of.

Therefore, bolster covers are usually made of durable natural fabrics, such as cotton, organic unbleached cotton, or hemp, and contain cotton, polyester, or foam filling. While polyester and foam aren’t the most natural materials, they help the bolster retain its shape and are very lightweight.

Some types of meditation cushions, for instance, zafus, have buckwheat hull filling.

Check the ingredients before buying to know how to clean your bolster in advance. Many bolsters have removable covers that you can machine wash, while others will need to be spot or dry cleaned.

Similarly to how some yoga mats need more care, some bolsters may need more “babysitting.” So, if you are busy, it may be a good idea to go for one that’s easier to take care of.

4. Design

Luckily for all of us, there are tons of options to choose from. Bolsters come in a variety of solid colors as well as in different prints and patterns. Therefore, you’re very likely to find something that matches your preferences, personality, mat, or even interior décor.

Keep in mind that lighter colors will stain and get dirty easier. So, you may have a harder time cleaning one with a cover that’s not removable.

Also, make sure you take proper care of prints and patterns. (I’m so guilty of screwing up my laundry, so trust me on this one, OK?)

And, finally, large bolsters frequently have one or two handles. This can come in handy if you’d like to take your bolster with you to your yoga practice.

Can’t I Just Use a Pillow?

If you haven’t found the best yoga bolster for you is or don’t want to invest in one, using pillows can be an option, and it will work sometimes.

Though the effect you’ll get won’t always be the same. That’s because pillows are a lot softer and usually wider in shape. For example, if you place a pillow under your spine in Savasana, you’ll more likely feel cushier rather than get a chest opening effect.

A better option can be using firmer couch cushions or a stack of folded blankets.

Let’s Talk!

Have you used yoga bolsters in your practice? Which is the best yoga bolster in your opinion, and why?


Categories: Yoga Props

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There are 12 comments

    1. Karina

      Hi, Jess, thanks for reaching out.

      Mine is from Chattra. I have a weakness for Indian prints and I find their bolsters to be gorgeous. Their quality is very good too.

      Hugger Mugger‘s bolsters are firm and high-quality, and so are Manduka‘s.

  1. Beth

    You literally guessed my thoughts on the pillow 🙂 I never thought of any of these. Thats a great guide. Thanks! xoxo

  2. Paul Robinson

    I’d like to let you know that I appreciated your article, it’s been very useful for me, and has helped to get a better understanding of yoga bolsters.

  3. Linda

    Hi, I am a beginner, thinking to get a bolster for yoga at home but also to use while sitting in chair now that we’re working from home. Should I get a standard/rectangular, or round bolster, for these uses? And recommendation between Manduka and HuggerMuger? Thank you!

    1. Karina

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for reaching out. I would personally recommend a standard/rectangular one, I find them to be a lot more comfortable and versatile to use. If you are planning to sit on it, a round one may be too high; it’s around 9 inches whereas rectangular ones will be 5 (Manduka) or 6 (HuggerMugger). Round ones can be a bit too tall if you use them as support and they only have one height, and rectangular ones can also be easier to prop up against blocks if you use them in restorative practice.

      As per brands, they are both excellent. However, HuggerMugger ones are firmer. Manduka ones are still very firm in comparison with some other brands you can find, but if you want one that really sturdy and supportive, than HuggerMugger ones may be a better choice.

      One more note – HuggerMugger cover is pretty tight, and it’s not recommended to take it off as you may not be able to get back on (the reason why they are so firm). So, you would need to spot clean or dry clean them, or wrap them into something else that would be easy to wash. Manduka ones have a cover that is easier to remove, wash (cold water, but make sure to check the instructions), and put back on. So, cleaningwise – Manduka ones are easier.

      Hope that helps. take care and let me know if you have any other questions!

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