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My 5 favourite Yin Yoga bolster poses

A yoga bolster is one of the best props you can use during a yin yoga practice. There are so many different ways to add it to your shape to find support and sweet intensity during each pose. If you are a Yin Yogi you probably already have some preferred ways that you use a bolster, but I have 5 personal favourites.


1. Upside down Dragon


This a variation of the classic lunge dragon that intensely targets the hip flexors and quads.


upside down dragon yin pose
Upside Down Dragon

How do you do it?

Essentially we just tip the dragon upside down.


Start on your back and slide your bolster underneath your knees, then lift your hips and drag the bolster underneath your buttocks so your whole pelvis can rest into the prop. Then when you are ready start to float one of your legs up towards your chest and take hold of the knee or back of the thigh, and let the other leg extend long (the extended leg will be the hip flexor and quad target leg).


You might feel more comfortable in the hip socket of the bent leg to let your leg fall slightly out to the side. See if its possible to let your shoulder blades and arms be as restful as possible. If it creates a lot of muscular tension in your arms you might find it useful to hold onto a yoga strap looped around your leg to give yourself a little more slack.


This pose can be explored for any length of time between 1-6 minutes. I personally enjoy a long time here and will often stay for about 5 minutes and then rebound with the bolster under my knees before moving into the opposite side.


Why do I love it?

Being upside down takes all the weight out of my wrists and shoulders and I love the feeling of letting my back sink into the mat. Its also nice and easy to transition into after a savasana type rebound as opposed to always getting up out of the floor for the next yin pose in the sequence.


2. Supported half saddle

This is a great way to help the body ease into what is commonly a very intense opener for the quad group. Often in a class setting a student will need a lot of guidance from the teacher to help set up the bolster and blocks, as well as some support allowing the body to rest back into the prop set up (and maybe some support getting out of the pose and into their rebound).


supported half saddle yin yoga pose
Supported Half Saddle

How do you do it?

From a seated position place the bolster close up against the back of the pelvis, and then add in a block half way (to support the weight of the ribs), and another at the end of the bolster (to support the weight of the head). Get the legs ready by folding one leg beside you (this will be the targeted quad). Ease you body back into the bolster (be sure that the blocks are nice and steady and don't topple over as you lay back).


It may take a little while before the body feels like it can settle in. And as always, if this shape strongly bothers your knees, or you breath becomes very shallow and panicky, bring yourself out and rest or ask your teacher to help you find a different shape to target your quads.


You can be in this shape anywhere from 3-6 minutes depending on what your body has to say about that. Be sure to come out of the shape slowly and mindfully and take a decent amount of time rebounding before you come into the opposite side.


Why do I love it?

This amount of prop support in a shape creates a lot more inclusivity for the entire room of people in the class. If you were teaching half saddle without any props available, many of the people in the class would find the pose too challenging for their bones and soft tissues.


It also creates space for the body to gradually release into the pose. Some people might find that their body has significantly yielded after a few minutes, and then they may like to adjust the height of the props, perhaps even taking both blocks out and resting back on the bolster.


3. Supported Sphinx

This is a great way to take some of the pressure out of the lumbar spine and the arms. Having a bolster under the front of the ribs and belly can also be a softer feeling for the front of the body rather than the firms of the mat or the floor.

supported sphinx yin yoga pose
Supported sphinx

How do you do it?

Start on your belly and slide up onto your forearms as you would normally do for sphinx pose. Remember it s completely up to your and the comfort of your lower back as to whether your legs are close together, a little apart or quite wide apart. Then take your bolster and slide it under the front of your lower ribs/upper belly for support. Feel free to adjust where you want your arms to be and whether you want your head to hang or rest on the edge of a block.

You can be in this pose anywhere from 1-5 minutes depending on what your lower back has to say. Lower backs are sensitive, and can hold a lot of story, so I like to let students decide for themselves when they are ready to come out. Returning flat to the belly, or sliding back into child's pose are both great ways to explore a rebound after the pose.


Why do I love it?

As someone who can fold very deeply in their lower back because of my bone shape, I often don't really enjoy folding that deeply. Using the bolster underneath my ribs helps me to not fold so deep into my spine, and give me a lovely feeling of soft support along my front. I also enjoy bringing my forearms up onto the bolster as well and then letting my head relax forward.






4. Supported Child's Pose


This is a wonderful way to transform Child's pose into an even more relaxing experience.

supported child yin yoga pose
Supported Child's Pose

How do you do it?

From a kneeling position, take the knees wide and bring the bolster in between the knees and close in to the body, and then slowly lower yourself down onto the bolster and turn the head to one side. Most people will find that the neck is a lot more resistant on one side than the other, but if possible, try to change the turn of the head at some point in the time frame to encourage evenness in the tissues.


You can be in this pose for as long as you like. It might even be a place you seek out as a rebound in between other poses.


Why do I love it?

This variation can be a great way to help the nervous system to rebalance, as the belly and breath are invited to melt down into the soft feeling of the bolster. It is also really helpful for people that experience a strong compressive sensation in the hip area when their knees are together in child's pose, to be able to let their body release forward without hip pain and discomfort.


5. Turned Child

A slight variation of what some yogi's might call Deer pose this has a focus on targeting the spine through rotation. If it feels more comfortable in the lower body to rearrange the legs so that they are I more of a deer pose position that is completely fine.


Some people that have slight deviations in their spine such as scoliosis, may need to angle the bolster towards them to reduce the amount of stress being asked of the spinal segments to rotate.


turned child yin yoga pose
Turned Child

How do you do it?

Kneel down on your mat and place the bolster directly our to one side. Leave a small gap between the bolster and your hips, and then roll of your ankles onto the mat to close the gap between the bolster and your body. At tis point it might feel good to widen the legs a little, or rearrange them however you need to. Place your hands on either side of the bolster and begin to lay your belly down onto the bolster turning your head away from the knees if your neck allows for this.


Some people will feel a lot of resistance in their spine to rotate this far, and may need to come back up and angle the bolster closer towards your body. Neck tension can also be a big restriction here, so if you need to, place a block under the head end of the bolster to relieve some of that sensation. It is also completely fine if you need to turn your head towards your knees rather than away from the knees.


You can be in this pose anywhere from 3-5 minutes depending on how your spine and neck respond. When you are ready to come out of the shape, it can be easeful to slowly start by floating the head off the bolster and gently turning it the other way allowing some time for the head to settle back into the bolster before climbing up and seeking out a rebound.


 

Hopefully there is something new in this list for you to try in your yin yoga practice.


Remember to keep exploring and experimenting with how you use your props. There is no limit to finding new ways to be supported with props in this practice, and let me know what your favourite pose is including a bolster in the comments below!


Love Karina x



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