Unlike a traditional workout, yoga and tai chi focus on precise movements that allow the body to slowly transition from one position to the next. Both practices attempt to coordinate the muscles, bones, heart and mind with the positive energy that surrounds the body. Although both have similar goals, a comparison of the benefits of tai chi and yoga reveals interesting differences.
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The body positions and movements used in yoga and tai chi often appear to be similar, but the two practices vary drastically. A tai chi session focuses on relaxed movements. The postures are constantly evolving and there are no pauses as the body moves from one posture to the next. On the other hand, yoga focuses on stillness. Each posture is held for several seconds or minutes, allowing the body to fill with positive energy between each movement. Both tai chi and yoga use controlled breathing and meditation to enhance the practice.
Tai chi and yoga have both been credited as effective treatments for relieving pain associated with certain medical conditions. For example, the Harvard Health Publications website claims that tai chi can improve symptoms of arthritis, high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease. Similarly, the University of Maryland Medical Center claims that a regular yoga practice can reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, relieve physical pain across the body and alleviate the symptoms of depression. When done regularly, both practices can improve the quality of life among patients with cancer and heart disease.
It is difficult to compare the stress-relieving benefits of tai chi and yoga. Both methods use a mind-body approach to help calm the entire being, rather than just the physical body. Before determining which method is more beneficial at providing relief from anxiety and stress, you must first try both methods. In many cases, it simply depends on which method suits you better. If you enjoy the constant movement of tai chi and become nervous while holding yoga postures, tai chi will help you relieve stress more effectively. Similarly, if the stillness of yoga speaks to your soul, you might find that a yoga practice suits you best.
Since tai chi requires constant movement, your balance can benefit from learning to flow seamlessly from one move to another. The University of Maryland Medical Center credits tai chi with helping to improve the balance of people as old as 92; in addition to helping remove the fear of falling in seniors. However, yoga’s emphasis on static poses makes it a better choice for improving balance while standing still. A regular yoga practice can teach you how to distribute weight evenly across your feet, which drastically improves stability.