Discover our guide to choose your yoga cushion and make the best use of these accessories of yoga and meditation that are the zafu and the bolster.
Meditation cushion, zafu, fuzen, half moon, bolster, you may get lost between the many yoga and meditation accessories that all look like cushions. When you are new to yoga, the difference can be subtle. However, it is very useful when you look into the matter. Yogom makes the point for you.
1. What is a meditation cushion?
2. What is a Yoga or Bolster cushion?
3. The Bolster cover to fill yourself!
4. What are the main criteria for choosing a yoga or meditation cushion?
5. What are the benefits of using a meditation Zafu or Bolster?
6. What is the price of a yoga cushion?
7. What is meditation?
- The meditation cushion, also called meditation Zafu or traditional Zafu, is a small, round, thick cushion.
- Its ancestor the zabuton: it comes from the Japanese culture, and more precisely from the Edo period (17th to 19th century). One day tailors chose to fill the cushions with more cotton than usual. This is how the comfortable meditation cushions that we know and use today came into being.
- It is stuffed with grain husks or other such material (sometimes also synthetic). This gives it a long life without deforming it.
- It is usually made of cotton, but it is sometimes found in wool (like the Meditation Zafu in merino wool from Yogom. The latter offers a soft touch and is ultra decorative in your living room).
- The meditation cushion is generally recommended to make meditation sessions more comfortable.
- It acts as a meditation seat when practicing meditation.
- It also allows us toaccess to postures that we might not be able to do if we only had our if we only had our body.
- For example, when meditating in the lotus position (kneeling cross-legged): it is very important to have the back straight and the knees touching the ground.
- Theuse of the zafu allows thebuttocks to be raised slightly so thatthe knees can touch the ground . This position can then be maintained for a longer period of time while sitting comfortably .
At Yogom, we have designed two zafus, one in cotton, the other in merino wool. Both are removable and filled with buckwheat hulls for optimal comfort . You’ll quickly understand why by reading the rest of this article!
- The bolster is also the best yoga cushion forto stretch the back and and to make detoxifying twists.
- It can be used by anyone with back pain No need to do yoga to lie down for two minutes on the bolster and feel better!
As for its cousin the Zafu, at Yogom we have developed different bolsters.
- The Merino wool yoga bolster and filled with buckwheat hulls. It is made in Lithuania and is Oeko-tex certified. A beautiful accessory of great quality to have permanently at hand (or back ;)) in your living room. It is also a great gift to give to a yogi or a loved one who has back pain and does little or no yoga.
Why do you have to fill in the form yourself? Because we all have a box of unused clothes or a blanket lying around. So we might as well kill two birds with one stone and re-invest these fabrics that are no longer useful to anyone. This is the magic of upcycling !
Not to mention that a bolster is an expensive accessory, sometimes as expensive as a yoga mat: offering you a bolster cover to fill is also an economical alternative!
- The shape of the yoga cushion:
- The bolster, do you need it to be fully rounded or slightly rectangular? The round bolster is the traditional shape, but the rectangular bolster may be more suitable if you lack lumbar flexibility.
- The meditation cushion can have two shapes: the half-moon fuzen and the full moon zafu. Although the fuzen fits perfectly to your body in the lotus posture, the zafu is more versatile and will allow you to explore other meditation postures.
- Diameter and size of the bolster: Bolsters, like yoga mats, have standardized sizes, approximately 20 to 25 cm in diameter by 60 to 70 cm long. However, they come in different sizes. It will be necessary to choose it according to its own size. If you are small, it is not necessarily interesting to opt for a very large bolster. As for the diameter, if you choose a removable bolster you can remove or add grains. The larger the diameter, the greater the stretch in the back and the more intense the twisting.
- Zafu thickness: the size of the zafu is very standardized, the meditation cushions are almost always 35 or 40cm in diameter. On the other hand, the thickness is very important in the choice of your traditional zafu. We find a variation of thickness between 10 and 30 cm in the various ranges of zafu of the trade. A thickness of 15 cm is generally recommended, but sometimes this is not enough if you lack flexibility or it is too thick. In this case, it would be better to opt for a Zafu with removable covers in which you can also manage the upholstery to add or remove some. This is obviously possible with the Yogom cotton Zafu, which is 15 cm thick and has room for extra padding if needed.. The type of filling can also affect density: for example, a polyester-filled cushion will be more likely to sag, while a grain-filled cushion will not. The Yogom bolster as well as the meditation cushions, whether in cotton or merino wool, are all three filled with buckwheat hulls.
What are the secondary criteria for choosing a yoga or meditation cushion?
For the following criteria the reflection is always the same whether it is a zafu or a bolster:
- Covering of the yoga or meditation cushion: you choose whether you prefer cotton or wool for comfort and/or ethical reasons.
- Removable or not: some yoga cushions can be removed and put in the washing machine, which can make them very easy to clean. Cheap yoga cushions are often not removable.
- Upholstery : we strongly advise against polyester upholstery, which is not very pleasant and has a poor durability over time, even if we understand that its price may be attractive. Instead, we recommend that you turn to an upholstery made of natural materials. A grain husk filling will make the meditation or yoga cushion fit your movements and body, while a kapok filling will be firmer. A buckwheat hull padding will have the advantage of being cozier while offering a very stable support. Moreover, kapok tends to become more and more expensive because of its “exotic” side.
- Empty bolster to fill: there is also now a DIY (Do It Yourself) bolster system where you buy the empty bolster cover and fill it with materials of your choice (old blanket, unused clothes, cereal pods etc…). Having control over the padding also allows us to adapt it to our practice and fill the yoga cushion according to our needs and/or desires.
- The weight: the last criterion, which generally depends on the previous ones. A bolster or a Zafu can be more or less heavy depending on its padding, so you will have to think about its use too before buying it? Will you bring it to the studio or move it regularly? Will it stay in your living room and only move from your couch to your carpet? Commercially available bolsters and zafus range in weight from 800 grams to almost 2 kilograms, which makes a considerable difference in weight if you need to move it. Note that buckwheat is heavier than kapok. Polyester is also one of the lightest fillings, but as we said above, it is a material we do not recommend.
- Eco-responsibility: this can also be a very important criterion when choosing your meditation and yoga cushions. There are many textiles with which they can be designed, try as much as possible to get yoga accessories made of natural materials. Also, it is an object that will be in prolonged contact with your body, it is important to check the mention of labels monitoring the composition and presence of toxic products, such as the Oeko-Tex label .
- Origin of manufacture : the country of manufacture can also be an important factor in your choice if you are sensitive to the working conditions of the people who create your products. Did you know that the entire Yogom Softness range is made in Europe and is Oeko-tex certified?
5 benefits of using a meditation zafu
- Sitting comfort in the cross-legged or lotus posture: the first and most important benefit of using a zafu is the comfort it can bring to your practice. Indeed, if sitting cross-legged is uncomfortable for you when you meditate or perform breathing exercises, also called Pranayama, the meditation cushion will be more than welcome. Whether it’s because of poor circulation, lack of flexibility, orprotruding bones, you won’t see the lotus posture in the same way once you start using one. Imagine meditating for more than 10 minutes on the floor (hard), a meditation cushion will soon seem essential!
- A good positioning of the back the second benefit is induced by the first, by making the postures more comfortable and by making your knees touch the ground, it will be easier for you toincorporate good alignment into your position. The whole reduces stress and the risk of injury in the long term. Indeed, it is not very good for the back to meditate with a bent back, the zafu can help you to stand up straight.
- A yoga accessory (support identical to the yoga brick): the zafu can help you like a yoga brick can. For example, you can lean on your zafu as you would on the yoga brick. For example, you can rest your head on the zafu like a cushion in savasana. Another posture: the low lunge (the zafu can be placed under the knee to cushion the joints).
- A yoga accessory (support identical to the bolster): who has never been very uncomfortable in prone twists? If you are not as flexible as a contortionist, this position can be very uncomfortable because your knees will not touch the ground. Putting a zafu under your knees can be a great option. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of the posture and stretch without it being too uncomfortable or painful.
- Another benefit completely outside of yoga or meditation practice, the zafu can be used as a small footstool in your living room, again it allows you to have a straighter back than if you were just sitting cross-legged on the floor. It becomes a decorative element that can bring charm to your home!
4 benefits of using a yoga cushion or bolster
For the bolster, its benefits are more technical:
- Support to facilitate the realization of certain asanas: for example the posture of the child, called balasana can be more restorative with a bolster along the belly, you lean on it. In yoga one can approach postures in a yang (engaged muscles) or yin (relaxed muscles) way. The bolster is very much used in Yin Yoga because all the asanas are done in a yin way, that is to say that we look for a deep relaxation.
- Support for deep stretching: it allows to prolong the stretching allowing a better relaxation of the body. In the case of Yin Yoga, for example, it makes twisting postures comfortable for several minutes, postures that would be incredibly uncomfortable or even painful and dangerous without the bolster.
- Knee support during relaxation The bolster softens your relaxations by facilitating the posture of savasana called the posture of the corpse: indeed the people who have pain in the lower back or who solicited too much their lumbar during the practice, will appreciate enormously to slip the bolster under their knees. This allows them to fill the hollow of the lower back and really relax after your yoga practice.
- Back support: if you don’t practice yoga, did you know that lying on a yoga bolster for even 2-3 minutes a day can relax the spine and relieve your back pain?
- What is the price of a meditation zafu The price of a meditation cushion can vary from 20€ to 80€. depending on whether the cushion is made in Asia or filled with synthetic material or whether it is handmade with organic cotton and filled with organic grain for example.
- What is the price of a bolster: the price of a yoga bolster can vary between 30€ and 90€. For the same reasons as the meditation cushion, the bolster will cost more or less depending mainly on its synthetic or natural filling.
Once again, we recommend that you do not turn to the first price offers which are often low-end, even if it means waiting longer to equip yourself. Indeed, they are often products that have a low durability over time, or that offer a poor support (deformation etc.). Or if the price is really a brake for you, this is the opportunity to equip yourself with the bolster cover to fill yourself! Fun, economical and ecological!
Now you know if you need a bolster and or a meditation zafu? Check out our Yoga Equipment Buying Guide to find out what other accessories you might need: maybe a yoga mat, a stretching strap, bricks, a carrying bag, etc.
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is a mental practice that consists of focusing attention on the present or on a specific element. For many people meditation means closing your eyes and chasing away all your thoughts, but it is much more complex than that. It is rather a question of welcoming them, watching them pass by, even confronting them rather than hiding them. It allows to reach a form of deep relaxation favorable to the reduction of the stress or the anxiety.
There are many forms of meditation:
- By repeating a mantra
- Focusing on the flame of a candle
- Focusing exclusively on the breath (which originates from vipassana)
If you are a beginner, you should know that the practice of meditation is very accessible. Meditation has few material constraints. All you need to do is find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, clothes that you feel comfortable in and that do not make you feel cold, and a comfortable sitting position (cross-legged, on the floor, in a chair, on a zafu, etc.). Stand up straight and focus on your breathing. Let your thoughts wander, as you would watch clouds in the sky. You are already in a form of meditation by doing this.
In meditation there are two main postures:
- The diamond posture (Vajrasana), and the lotus posture (Padmasana). The first is to sit on your ankles with one foot under each buttock. The knees are forward and the hands are on top. Although easy to perform, it can be difficult to maintain over time if you have blood circulation or joint problems.
- The lotus posture is more difficult if you lack flexibility but more pleasant over time if you have a difficult blood circulation. It consists of sitting cross-legged with your feet on your thighs and your hands on your knees. In this position it is preferable to have the knees touching the ground in order to have a straight back and maintain a well aligned posture.
This is where the zafu shows all its interest: raising the buttocks in lotus style thanks to the meditation cushion allows the knees to touch the ground and keep a correct alignment (straight back) and comfort. (Because we cannot enter meditation if we are in an uncomfortable or painful posture!)
What is Yin Yoga?
Originating from Taoist Yoga, Yin Yoga is a gentle but profound yoga using the classic Indian yoga postures to allow for a deep letting go. It can be recognized by several characteristics:
- The majority of the postures are done on the floor to avoid generating tension in the supporting muscles. Indeed, it is the total muscular relaxation which is sought in Yin.
- The postures are held for several minutes (between 3 and 5 minutes or more) to allow for this deep relaxation and to give the body all the time it needs to relax.
- Yin Yoga is usually practiced on a thick, comfortable, very soft mat(sometimes even wool) and with a yoga bolster to accompany the practice. A yoga blanket is also great for final relaxation as the body once relaxed can quickly cool down.
We find in Yin Yoga postures also known in other types of yoga such as the posture of the child, the posture of the snail, the position of the sphinx, or the posture of the frog. These postures are slightly re-adapted in Yin in order to favor the relaxation of the body.
The benefits of the practice of Yin Yoga are numerous:
- Gain in mobility and flexibility,
- Calming of the mind,
- Detoxification of the body,
- Improved sleep,
- Release of blocked emotions and muscular tensions etc.
Want to know more about Yin Yoga?
As well as our 3 special articles dedicated to Yin Yoga:
- Yin Yoga : Functional Approach and Anatomy
- Yin Yoga Training: Everything you need to know before you start
- Where do the Chinese meridians come from? Their origins and the link with Taoism and Yin Yoga
Want to practice? Go to Youtube to have access to several online Yin Yoga classes with the Yogom Academy (Free and without registration)