Tai Chi and yoga share many characteristics. They both combine movement and mental focus to build a strong body and a clear and focused mind. Both practices also come from ancient origins in the East. Tai Chi originated in China thousands of years ago; yoga emerged in India many thousands of years ago as well.
Most important, both practices use the breath as a focal point for the mind. In Tai Chi, the goal is to breathe deeply and naturally. In yoga, practitioners link their breath to their physical movements. These similarities make it easy to consider integrating the two practices.
Use Tai Chi As A “Warm-Up” For Yoga
Tai Chi’s slow movements and meditative quality make it a complementary way to perform warm-up exercises prior to a yoga practice. Tai Chi practices offer long as well as short forms. A short form Tai Chi practice may easily precede a complete yoga practice. The nature of Tai Chi allows it to serve several purposes as a warm-up.
- Transitioning from sleep to waking movements if it precedes a morning yoga practice
- Transitioning from regular daily activities and entering the meditative state conducive to practicing yoga
- Building energy for use during a yoga practice
Use Tai Chi As A “Cool-Down” For Yoga
The slow and meditative movements of Tai Chi, as well as the mental qualities it engenders, make it an excellent follow-up to a yoga practice. Yoga poses build strength and endurance by holding various postures (asanas) for several breaths at a time. Some styles of yoga, specifically vinyasa, link the poses into a series of flowing movements. In general, the pace of yoga may be faster than Tai Chi or less fluid.
The continuous slow-motion movements of Tai Chi may be applied as a series of counter postures to soothe the muscles and joints following a yoga practice.
It may also assist with smoothing and calming one’s energy in preparation of Svasana (corpse pose) the final pose of a yoga practice. During Svasana, the body and mind are allowed to rest and integrate the benefits of the yoga poses.
Practice Tai Chi To Prepare For Meditation
Depending on how they are practiced, both Tai Chi and yoga can be moving meditations. Each uses the breath as a focal point and guided movements or postures to build strength and direct energy in the body. While Tai Chi explicitly offers moving meditation, it can be argued that yoga’s meditative qualities are more implicit and come with extended practice.
The poses of yoga are intended to prepare the body for seated breath work and meditation. They are two of the traditional eight limbs of yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises) and Samadhi (meditation). By practicing Tai Chi prior to a seated meditation, a practitioner may find themselves more able to access the state of mind and quality of energy best suited to a seated meditation practice.
They may also find themselves able to sit for a more extended period of time, as they won’t have expended as much mental energy centering and dissipating their thoughts to prepare for meditation.
While many people practice Tai Chi or yoga exclusively, the two may be combined to form one practice. As with many mind-body forms of exercise, the practice may be customized to meet the capacity of the practitioner and to supply specific desired benefits.
Tai Chi Yoga, Tai You Chi, and Yo Qi Gong classes are a few of the combination style class formats currently offered. If a practitioner is not sure where to start, they may seek these class formats in their community or online. With time and practice, they may even develop their own regimen based on what they learn and personal experience.
Alternating Days For Yoga and Tai Chi
Besides combining the two into one routine, another option is to practice both but on different days. Since each practice yields its own set of benefits for health and wellness there is no reason not to do Tai Chi on a Tuesday and Yoga on a Thursday. This makes for a well-rounded fitness lifestyle where yoga can do more to support physical strength, while Tai Chi can provide elinghlightment, and general emotional and mental wellness.