Yoga or tai chi? Which is better? This is a debate that's gone on for centuries! Both disciplines have been around for more than a thousand years, steeped in rich history and wonderful insights. And it's hard to say which exactly is better, since they both offer so many unique benefits!
For those looking to improve their physical and mental health, both can definitely help. But which one should you pick? This is where our comprehensive comparison of yoga or tai chi comes in.
In this article, we'll be looking into answering of question of whether you should pick yoga or tai chi--or neither--or both!--for your physical exercise. Let's dive right in.
So What's Yoga...?
Yoga is typically seen as a form of exercise--and it is, definitely!--but it's so more than just that. It's a physical practice that involves postures and movements, often flowing seamlessly from one to the next.
These movements can be accompanied by breathing exercises, and they typically end with a period of relaxation or meditation.
You likely already recognize yoga from its worldwide popularity, particularly in America and Europe. While it has roots in medieval Haṭha yoga, today's yoga as exercise has been given various names by academics, including modern postural yoga and transnational anglophone yoga.
Interestingly, postures weren't always the focus of yoga. In fact, it wasn't until the 1920s that posture practice was revived by yoga gurus like Yogendra and Kuvalayananda, who saw the health benefits of incorporating them.
The flowing sequences of Surya Namaskar, also known as Salute to the Sun, were introduced in the 1920s by the Rajah of Aundh, Bhawanrao Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi.
These and other standing poses used in gymnastics were later incorporated into yoga by the influential teacher, Krishnamacharya, in Mysore from the 1930s to the 1950s.
... And What's So Good About It?
Either yoga or tai chi are great in their own ways. Yoga's myriad benefits are fairly well-documented. With each slow, deliberate movement and deep breath, yoga holds the potential to transform both your body and mind.
Looking at yoga or tai chi, yoga is particularly great, for example, as a tool for pain relief. For those experiencing lower back pain, yoga can be just as effective as basic stretching.
In fact, the American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain. By practicing yoga regularly, individuals can improve their mobility and ease their pain.
In addition to relieving pain, yoga has been shown to ease the discomfort of arthritis. Through gentle yoga, the swollen and tender joints associated with arthritis can be soothed.
A Johns Hopkins review of 11 recent studies found that gentle yoga can be an effective way to ease arthritis symptoms.
Yoga is also a powerful tool for heart health. Regular practice can help to reduce stress levels and body-wide inflammation, both of which contribute to healthier hearts.
So What About Tai Chi...?
Tai chi, short for Tai chi ch'üan, is an internal Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries.
It's a combination of physical movements, breathing techniques, and meditation that aims to improve one's overall health and well-being. Just like yoga, tai chi has a worldwide following, with practitioners from Asia all the way to America.
In the early 20th century, notable figures such as Yang Chengfu and Sun Lutang promoted tai chi for its health benefits. Today, tai chi is widely recognized for its positive impact on physical and mental health. It is practiced in many different forms, both traditional and modern.
Most modern styles, though can be traced back to the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun. All of these schools trace their roots back to Chen Village.
Tai chi is often referred to as "shadowboxing" because it is a slow and deliberate movement practice that can look like someone is fighting an imaginary opponent. While tai chi can be used for self-defense training, it's most commonly practiced for its numerous health benefits.
... And Why Pick Tai Chi Over Yoga?
Tai chi is a powerful form of exercise that improves both physical and mental health. It's no surprise that so many people worldwide are practicing it, regardless of their age or fitness level. Its benefits are numerous and life-changing.
On a physical level, tai chi improves strength, flexibility, aerobic conditioning and balance. The gentle movements of tai chi have been proven to improve cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure and even prevent falls.
Tai chi is especially helpful for people with arthritis as well, since it can help alleviate pain and discomfort.
But the benefits don't stop there. Tai chi has also been found to have immense emotional and mental benefits. The deliberate movements help people to feel more relaxed, grounded and present in their bodies.
This can lower anxiety, stress and depression, while also improving memory, focus and sleep. Tai chi is truly a holistic form of exercise that supports your entire wellbeing.
Numerous medical studies have shown the overwhelming benefits of Tai Chi, especially when tailored to specific health conditions. A regular routine can prevent many health problems and help people better manage their existing conditions.
Yoga Or Tai Chi: Why Not Pick Both?
You can pick both if you want to! If you're looking to improve your overall fitness, either yoga or tai chi can be great options to consider. Both practices involve postures that help strengthen your muscles and improve your mobility.
If you're not sure if you prefer yoga or tai chi, why not try taking classes in both and see which one you enjoy more? Many people find that tai chi is great for improving their overall health and body awareness, while others love yoga for its emphasis on flexibility and deep stretches.
However, if flexibility is your top priority, yoga may be the better choice. Since yoga often involves holding deep stretches for longer periods of time, it can be a great way to improve your flexibility over time.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a more explosive workout that still emphasizes fluid, full-body movements, you might want to try a Chen-style tai chi class, which may include jumps and kicks.
Both tai chi and yoga are also great for reducing stress and improving mental health. Both practices incorporate breathing exercises and meditation, making them great for reducing anxiety, improving focus, and promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.
And when it comes to weight loss, both practices can be helpful, though power yoga or vinyasa classes may be more rigorous than other types of yoga, and Chen-style tai chi classes may provide a more intense workout.
The Final Verdict: Choosing the Best for You
Either yoga or tai chi can help to bring balance to the body and mind. Yoga can be used to build strength and increase flexibility, while tai chi helps to promote relaxation and improve balance.
When it comes to choosing between yoga or tai chi, it really comes down to personal preference. Consider your own personal needs and goals. Both practices offer a range of benefits and can be tailored to suit any individual.
Talk to studio staff or instructors to learn more about the different classes they offer, and don't be afraid to experiment with different styles until you find the one that fits your needs and preferences!
You've looked a fair bit at choosing between either yoga or tai chi, but are you eager to learn more about tai chi specifically? Check this out!