Distracted by media. Weighed down by competition. Straddled with debt. Reeling under stress. This is the life of the average man on the street in the West. It is not hard to figure out why the West has embraced the healing arts of Tai Chi and Yoga so readily.
Tai Chi and Yoga are mind-body exercise systems that originated in the East—China and India respectively—thousands of years ago. These were developed by people who believed in the deep connection between the mind and the body and realized the need to harmonize these to keep away physical and mental ailments. And this is where the similarities between Tai Chi and Yoga end.
Difference #1: Origin
Tai Chi is associated with slow and graceful movements. But would you believe that it was developed as a martial art and self-defense technique? An expert practitioner of a combat style of Tai Chi—Tai Chi Chuan—can take down more than one opponent with a series of lightning fast and powerful moves. Over the years, Chinese practitioners have modified its warrior postures and developed various styles to calm the mind and harmonize the body, mind, and emotions.
Yoga was developed solely as a mind-body healing exercise to prepare the body and purify the mind for spiritual enlightenment.
Difference #2: Postures
To understand how is Tai Chi different from Yoga, look beyond the apparent similarities in their exercise routines. Tai Chi consists of a series of gentle flowing movements where you have to stretch various parts of your body. In Yoga too, you have to stretch and bend various parts of your body. But these stretches are usually more complex, like when you have to arch backwards.
In Tai Chi, one pose fluidly flows into the next without any pause, and the body is constantly in motion. But you have to lock your joints and hold certain Yoga poses for several seconds or minutes. So you are static many times during a Yoga routine.
Difference #3: Benefits
Tai Chi or Yoga. Which is better? Both have their distinct benefits.
Both Tai Chi and Yoga are mind-body healing exercises with profound physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. Multiple scientific studies have proved that these two exercises can effectively manage symptoms of pain, reduce stress and anxiety, help lower blood pressure, and improve the quality of life in patients suffering from cancer and cardiac diseases.
However, the gentle, ballet-like movements of Tai Chi have been found to be more effective than Yoga in managing the symptoms associated with diabetes, osteoarthritis, and musculo-skeletal pain caused by poor posture and working for long hours on the computer.
The gentle coordinated movements of Tai Chi are also more effective than Yoga in improving balance while moving. Several scientific studies have proved that practicing Tai Chi regularly reduces the instances of slips and falls in the elderly. Yoga improves stability and balance when standing still.
Difference #4: Suitability for Practitioners
Some advanced Yoga postures demand certain levels of fitness and flexibility in the practitioner. These are not suitable for all. The stretches in Yoga are generally more complex than the stretching movements in Tai Chi. Some Yoga poses also tend to lock the joints. So Yoga is unsuitable for people with conditions like back pain. However, the gentle movements of Tai Chi are generally safe for most people.
When you know how is Tai Chi different from Yoga, you can make the right choice of a wellness program based on your needs, abilities, and temperament.
Free Tai Chi Video: Breathing Exercises
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