What Is The Difference Between Tai Chi And Yoga?

In the grand scheme of things, tai chi and yoga are essentially cousins. While they’re on the same family tree and share various similarities, they’re different in their own right. Both options are suitable for most individuals, regardless of age and fitness level. 

Although they both focus on meditation, deep breathing, and motion sequencing, there are a few differences to consider. Here’s what you need to know about tai chi and yoga. 

The Beginnings Of Yoga And Tai Chi

Tai chi and yoga have separate origin stories, but both begin in Asia. Both practices have been around for centuries but only became popular in more recent years (by recent years, we mean the last hundred years or so). 

Although we know it today as a physical practice, yoga started around 5,000 years ago as an Indian philosophy – a way to connect with divine spirits important in Indian culture. 

It focused more on meditation and concentration as opposed to physical movement through various flows we know and love today. Yoga initially became more prominent in India, eventually spreading to the Western world to create the massive practice we know today. 

On the other hand, tai chi’s origins date back to the 1600s, when it blossomed in the villages of China. Like yoga, tai chi has evolved and morphed into the practice it is today, although it didn’t spread to the United States until the 1950s. 

Tai chi, like yoga, adds elements of mental and physical practices, although its roots come from martial arts. Every posture derives from a martial art or self-defense application, even though the moves are gentle and boast names of animals or nature. 

Despite this, tai chi prioritizes harmony and balance between the spirit, mind, and body. It’s the release of excess tension while finding peaceful calm. So, in this sense, it’s pretty similar to yoga.

Are Tai Chi And Yoga Similar?

Tai chi and yoga share quite a few similarities, as they both focus on three essential priorities: deep breathing, meditation, and motion sequencing. They require participants to focus on the motions as they move through each sequence, challenging their muscles as they go. 

Neither practices require excessive space, as you can easily practice either with the space of a yoga mat. They’re easy on your joints for the most part, as they’re low impact, although some moves may be challenging for those dealing with joint pain. 

Aside from these similarities, these practices share numerous benefits. Studies conducted on tai chi and yoga exhibit similar results: participants in both have shown signs of combatting high blood pressure, depression, stress, and anxiety. On top of that, these practices can help increase your body as a whole – better balance, improved coordination, and an ability to sync your breath with your movement.

Benefits Of Tai Chi And Yoga

As mentioned, tai chi and yoga share many of the same benefits. Both practices offer physical and cognitive benefits, but the list varies somewhat from one practice to the next. Here are the potential benefits of tai chi:

  • Improved muscle strength and definition
  • Enhanced endurance and stamina
  • Better balance and flexibility
  • Improved aerobic conditioning
  • Can help combat fibromyalgia
  • Helps reduce back pain
  • Can help with weight loss
  • Improves sleeping patterns and quality
  • Reduces stress
  • Can decrease mild depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
  • Improves cardiorespiratory function
  • Improves cognitive function

On the flip side, a few potential benefits of yoga include:

  • Reduces back pain
  • Combats arthritis discomfort
  • Boost immune system
  • Improved balance and flexibility
  • Helps promote a healthy sleep cycle
  • Can improve sleep quality
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves respiration
  • Decreases pain and stress levels (produces feel-good endorphins)

Of course, reaping the benefits of tai chi or yoga requires consistent practice. Generally, you should practice anywhere from three to five times per week. Sessions usually range from 30 to 90 minutes, although it depends on the type of tai chi or yoga you choose. 

When you first start practicing, this type of movement might be pretty challenging, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while or have never done this type of training. Start with basic movements and work your way up as you become accustomed to this type of exercise (some yoga poses and tai chi movements can be difficult). 

As you incorporate tai chi or yoga into your regular routine, be sure to pay attention to your body. If you feel like you’re overdoing it, drop back to fewer or shorter weekly sessions. Slowly work your way up to longer and more frequent sessions as your body grows stronger, more flexible, and increases its endurance. 

Remember to give yourself adequate recovery time, as well. So, if you decide to do more intense sessions a few times per week, ensure your body has plenty of time to recover before the next session. 

What Is The Difference Between Tai Chi And Yoga?

Although tai chi and yoga share various similarities and benefits, a few notable differences separate the two. One of the main differences is the focus in each practice. While yoga features flow aspects, tai chi tends to be more dynamic. 

As mentioned, tai chi was born in China and is widely recognized as an internal martial art. The practice incorporates predetermined sequences that prioritize flows, controlled movements, varying stances, rhythmic movement, and optimized posture. There’s a heavy emphasis on breathwork as you move through sequences.

On the other hand, yoga is slightly less dynamic. Aside from the flows that keep you moving, yoga involves many holds that leave your muscles screaming for rest. That said, yoga still utilizes flowing, controlled movements in sync with your breathing, but there are definitely more slow-burn holds in yoga. 

In addition, you can expect to break more of a sweat during a yoga class. Although you can participate in quiet, gentle yoga flows or physically intense and challenging tai chi practices, yoga tends to inspire sweat (especially in certain types of yoga, such as hot yoga). 

Which Is Better, Tai Chi Or Yoga?

Tai chi and yoga each have their merits, so you can’t go wrong with either. Neither practice is competing with the other. Instead, they pair well. So, if you want to mix up your fitness routine, try adding tai chi on one day instead of yoga, or vice versa. 

You might find that you prefer one over the other, so if that’s the case, stick with the option that works best for you. Tai chi isn’t necessarily better than yoga (or vice versa) – it all comes down to personal preference.