Yoga and Tai Chi? The Choice Is Yours. The literal meaning Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yoga” which is “yoke”, meaning “to join” or “to unite”. Yoga is a practical, methodical, and systematic set of techniques that serve to help people become aware of their deepest spiritual nature. Tai Chi may be described as “meditation in motion”. It is a mind and body practice that involves low-impact, slow-motion exercises in the form of movements that focus attention on meditation and bodily sensations.
Both practices have been known to be an adjunct to standard medical treatments for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with aging.
Both practices help students become more aware of their internal states, while helping to make the body a healthy and strong resource.
Muscle strength. Since yoga poses require you to support your own body weight, the weight of your body works as resistance training to increase overall strength and muscle tone. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities, as well as, core back and abdomen muscles. In a Japanese study, study participants that performed Tia Chi experienced improved lower body strength by more than 30% and 25% in arm strength.
Flexibility. Women in a 2006 Stanford study significantly boosted their upper- and lower-body flexibility with Tai Chi. Yoga instills a greater range of motion for your body, prevents muscle soreness and promotes faster recovery between training sessions. Because both Yoga and Tai Chi promote flexibility balance is also enhanced.
Aerobic Conditioning. Yoga is known to improve circulation of upper and lower extremities, while serving to be an aerobic work-out once students progress to more advanced vigorous exercises. Tai Chi may provide some aerobic benefits, depending upon the speed and size of the movements.
Improved Posture. With increased flexibility and strength and heightened awareness about your body’s positioning, you’re likely to have better posture from Yoga and Tai Chi.
Improved Breathing. The breathing techniques used in Yoga and Tai Chi may improve lung capacity when the focus is on deep breathing.
Stress Reduction. Yoga and Tai Chi use specific meditation techniques to calm your mind and alleviate stress. Yoga also promotes biochemical responses that result in the decrease of hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress to induce a feeling of calmness.
Improved Concentration and Mood. Yoga boosts oxygen levels to the brain which is energizing to assist concentration levels and feelings of contentment. Rigorous Tai Chi is also effective at improving concentration and mood. lmproved concentration levels may also positively affect learning and memory.
Health Benefits. Tai Chi is often used in conjunction with traditional therapies to manage a host of medical conditions. Yoga therapy or IYT is also used to help manage specific medical conditions, such as, clinical depression, heart disease, asthma, back pain, arthritis, insomnia and multiple sclerosis. Yoga is also known to lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as, boost the immune system function.
Spiritual Awareness. Yoga and Tai Chi are said to encourage self- acceptance. This allows students to have a deeper understanding of their relationships and more compassion for people and the world around them which can be liberating.
Mindful Eating. Because Yoga and Tai Chi focus on the feelings of your body, some students have remarked that they have found they are making better food choices to manage their weight more efficiently.
Confidence Boost. Since Yoga poses and Tai Chi motions require time and determination, there’s a sense of accomplishment when you are able to advance in your program. This sense of accomplishment may translate into a boost of confidence.
Now for the Choices…
Which is best for you? For some, it may be personal preference. For others who have mobility issues, Tia Chi may be the preference. Still for others more, they may incorporate both Tia Chi and Yoga into their lifestyles.Let’s explore the options.
Yoga Choices. There are several types of yoga so you may want to review our list to decide on the best option for you. If you have a medical condition, you will also want to check in with your physician.
– Hatha yoga incorporates body and breathing exercises to help you become aware of your internal states and to make your body strong.
– Karma yoga incorporates action movements to teach you to act out duties skillfully and selflessly for less stress in life.
– Jnana yoga is a mental discipline meant to impart knowledge and wisdom.
– Bhakti yoga focuses on the path of self-surrender for love and devotion.
– Kundalini yoga is a highly technical science that serves to awaken a vital force in the body that often lies dormant.
– Mantra yoga involves meditation and the use of certain sounds called “mantras” that provide for greater concentration and self-purification.
– Raja yoga, also known as the “royal path”, offers a scientific and methodical path to refine our desires, emotions, and thoughts, as well as, the impressions and thoughts that lie dormant in the unconscious mind.
Tai Chi. Tai Chi is often described as a form of meditation in motion that uses martial art principles to promote the best in health. As you move through the motions of Tia Chi, you breathe deeply and naturally while focusing on your bodily sensations. Tai Chi creates an energy force that flows through your body to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi. Tai chi is said to promote the balance of Yin and Yang as well. The modality consists of a warm up, sets of movements, and breath or energy work. Certain programs emphasize the martial arts aspect of Tai Chi to mobilize the body’s energy rather than its potential for healing and stress reduction.
Selecting a Class
You can always buy or rent videos geared to your fitness needs to learn Yoga or Tai Chi. However, yoga and Tai Chi classes can be invaluable to teach your proper body positioning and breathing techniques to get the most out of your commitment to enhance your life. First, you can observe a class to see if you are comfortable with the teacher’s approach. Then, you can take a class to receive personalized instruction to maximize the benefits and prevent injury. In fact, speak with your instructor before class so that they can accommodate your specific needs.
Choosing an Instructor
In terms of instructor training, there is no standard training or licensing agencies for Tai Chi instructors. So, you’ll need to seek out recommendations from friends or clinicians. If you are interested in Yoga, there are certification programs available to become yoga meditation expert. However, the length of training and type of technique used in training varies among schools. You’ll want to look for an experienced instructor and inquire about their credentials.
Know Your Limits!
Yoga and Tai Chi can be physically demanding. So, go at your own pace and start out slowly. Be certain to learn proper breathing techniques and how to maintain balance before you attempt the more rigorous movements or poses. You’ll also want to make sure you warm up properly before each session to prevent injury and allow you to get the most out of your work-out. Make certain you wear proper lightweight clothing that allows your body to move freely. Stay hydrated. Too, wear shoes with thin soles that provide enough support to help you balance and help you feel grounded. Pay attention to your body as you go through your movements. If you experience pain, feel faint or dizzy, refrain and tell the instructor.
And reward yourself when you make progress! Some of the benefits of Tai Chi are usually evident within twelve weeks and within 30 days for Yoga. Soon, you’ll be able to notice positive physical and psychological changes that may positively influence many aspects of your life!