Supine (lying-down) back bends are very often taught with some sort of under-back support. Several weeks ago, we discussed using a yoga roller for a very deep chest-opening back bend. A bolster, because of its size and squishiness, will offer a different experience than a roller, even when used in a similar way. The bolster gives under your weight and shape, where a roller maintains its structure, so using a bolster is typically more restorative and gentle. But rest assured, you’ll still get lots of chest opening and back release.
Start by placing the bolster in the middle of your mat with the long edge parallel to the long edge of the mat. Then sit directly in front of the bolster so your bottom is on the mat and your low back touches the short end of the bolster. Lie back until your elbows come to the ground. Then pause to lift your hips an inch up and tuck your tail toward your feet. This move lengthens your spine and keeps your low back from over-arching. Gently lie the rest of the way down. Place your arms at a diagonal from your sides and turn the palms to face upward. You should feel your shoulders tumbling over the edges of the bolster. This is the chest-opening part. Your entire spine is supported by the bolster, so you can relax completely into the support. Stay here and enjoy the extra inhalation space you’re creating by expanding your front.
Next, roll off the bolster and move it toward the bottom of your mat, turning it so the long edge is parallel to your mat’s short end. Again sit in front of the bolster and again lie back. Now just your low back/sacrum area will be on the bolster. The rest of your spine, head, and shoulders will be on the mat. Bend your knees toward your chest, then straighten your legs so your foot soles reach toward the ceiling. Getting your legs up will help fluids return to your heart and lymph nodes, reduce lower body swelling, and ease fatigue. Having your hips supported means you don’t have to do anything but relax.
Using a bolster in these ways turns two rather advanced poses into accessible and relaxing moves to help you de-stress, reenergize, and breathe better.