YOGA AND TAI CHI

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YOGA AND TAI CHI

 

Yoga_e_cattolicesimoPracticing relaxation techniques such as yoga and tai chi can help you achieve the relaxation response, a state of deep calmness that counteracts the negative effects of stress. When practiced regularly, these activities can lead to a reduction in everyday stress levels, anxiety, and muscle tension as well as an improvement in mood, energy, and focus.

Learning the basics of yoga and tai chi is straightforward, but maximizing the stress-relieving benefits requires regular practice. As a beginner, you may benefit by learning from a qualified instructor to ensure you’re performing the poses and movements correctly. You can then continue to practice alone or with others.

Key Difference: Yoga, a form of exercise and meditation, is most commonly practiced in India and is known for disciplining physical, mental, and spiritual forms. The most common yoga practiced in the Western countries is the Hatha yoga and its asanas. Yoga is most commonly associated with meditation and the ‘prana’ or ‘life’. It seeks to balance and relax the body, including joining the breath with the spirit. Tai Chi Chaun, or just Tai Chi, meaning “supreme ultimate”, is a soft martial art that revolves around a person’s ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’ a life force that drives all living beings and forms. Tai Chi is Chinese meditation practice that is used to strengthen a person’s body and Chi.  Both Yoga and Tai Chi are common exercise programs.  While both are beneficial forms of meditation and relaxation, they remain completely different.

Yoga, a form of exercise and meditation, is most commonly practiced in India and is known for disciplining physical, mental, and spiritual forms. It is based on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Variousyoga_1792126c traditions of yoga are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Early forms of meditative yoga have been dated back to the Indus River Valley in the 3rd millennium BC, when seals depicting figures in a common yoga and meditation pose were unearthed. Modern yoga became popular during the mid-19th century and was introduced by Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s. The most common yoga practiced in the Western countries is the Hatha yoga and its asanas.

Yoga is most commonly associated with meditation and the ‘prana’ or ‘life’. It seeks to balance and relax the body, including joining the breath with the spirit. It is also used in order to improve a person’s flexibility and build up strength. The teachings of Yoga are grouped into three parts: the physical aspect, mental aspect and spiritual aspect. While the physical aspect focuses on strengthening the body, the mental aspect deals with relieving stress and anxiety, along with fostering positive thinking and self-acceptance. The spiritual aspect deals with becoming one with the nature and the joining of the body and spirit as one. Different asanas of yoga are used depending on a person’s need. Yoga can be used for meditation, increasing flexibility, or burning calories. Yoga can also help fight cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart diseases; it also increases awareness, improves musculo-skeletal and mental health. It can also relieve stress, anxiety, depression and promote more happy thoughts. One should also be careful when performing the asanas, so that they do not over-exert themselves and cause injuries.

tai-chi-chuan-1Tai Chi Chaun, or just Tai Chi, meaning “supreme ultimate”, is a soft martial art that revolves around a person’s ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’ a life force that drives all living beings and forms. Tai Chi is Chinese meditation practice that is used to strengthen a person’s body and Chi. According to Old Chinese medicine, the constant flow of Chi in a person is what keeps a person’s body healthy and fit. If the flow of Chi is interrupted then the body becomes sick. The practice of Tai Chi ensures that the Chi inside a person continues to flow without any disruptions. Tai Chi is believed to be originated some two thousand years ago and uses continual movement of the hands and feet as well as proper shifting of weight in order to facilitate movement of Chi through the body. The body has a center called the tan t’ien near your belly button where you relax your hands at the beginning and end of each practice to gather the Chi. In using Tai chi as a combat exercise; it follows the principle of yin and yang, a balance of opposites where soft is used to overcome hard. Similar to Yoga, Tai Chi focuses on a person’s breathing in order to release all the bad energy.

Though, Tai Chi comprise of slow movements, it does not mean it can be just as lethal as aggressive martial arts. Tai Chi training involves five elements, taolu (solo hand and weapons routines/forms),taichi2 neigong & qigong (breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditation), tuishou (response drills) and sanshou (self-defense techniques). Neigong & qigong and Sanshou are the most popular forms of Tai Chi practiced today. Tai Chi styles such as, Yang, Wu, and Chen, also have secondary forms of a faster pace for movements. Tai Chi movements are proved to improve coordination, balance, strength and burn calories. It can also be used for relaxation, to relieve muscular tension and pain. According to research, continuous tai chi practice has shown improvements in people recovering chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia. The only injury that can be sustained from Tai Chi is the tension building up in the knees from improper postures, so if a person feels tension and pain the knees while practicing, they should consult the master or try other poses that alleviates the tension.

There are many different types of yoga. As well as the popular types, there are many yoga classes modified for different needs, such as prenatal yoga, yoga for seniors, and adaptive yoga (modified for disabilities).  Most yoga sessions begin with a series of poses to warm up the body, and most sessions end with some type of relaxation exercise.

Tai chi is based on the premise that wellness and relaxation requires the body’s bio energy, or Qi, to flow smoothly around the body. The muscle movements in tai chi exercises are designed to stimulate the flow of Qi through the body and the major organs.

Tai chi focuses on correct body posture and spinal alignment in order to release tension, improve the digestive system, and remove stress from the back. By moving weight from one leg to another, and alternately raising the arms, legs and hands, tai chi varies the weight on different joints increases the flow of nutrients into the joint, increasing flexibility and range of motion. These flowing movements also strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons.      By focusing your mind on the movements and your breathing, you keep your attention on the present, which clears the mind and leads to a relaxed state.

tai-chi-chuanWhen looking at Tai Chi vs. Yoga, you need to realize that while Tai Chi has its roots seated far back in Chinese history; Yoga has a similar history that began in India.    While there are definite similarities in some of the forms, you will also find that the two practices differ significantly from one another and yet can achieve many of the same goals. These goals are to help you achieve a high level of mental and physical well-being or health through the practice of both physical and metal exercises and the use of the appropriate breathing techniques.

One of the biggest differences when it comes to Tai Chi vs. yoga is that yoga was developed purely as a form of individual and group exercise that can be practiced by anyone. On the other hand while Tai Chi can be used a form of both physical and mental exercise, it is also a martial art that can be used in battle. Beyond this the other major difference is that yoga focuses on using the arms to hold your body’s weight and provide the necessary support, Tai Chi focuses on developing and using the muscles in your legs.

As you consider Tai Chi vs. yoga, you would do well to start by looking at the similarities in the benefits that you can expect from either of them. As both practices involve a series of forms or postures that are designed to stretch and improve the flexibility of your muscles, you will find that they will improve your circulation and blood flow. By learning and practicing the methods of breathing and meditation, you can learn to relax your body and your mind and in doing so eliminate the stress and affects it has on both your mind and your body.

In yoga you are taught to attain a particular posture and hold it for a period of time that will get longer with practice. These forms are designed to have significant positive impact on your physical healthyoga-rishikesh-uttarakhand-north-india-668-1 and the mental discipline that goes with them can help to create a peaceful state of mind, promote the power of positive thinking and teach you to accept yourself the way you are.

With Tai Chi, your body is constantly in motion as you move fluidly from one form to another. This rhythmic movement, combined with the appropriate breathing technique also has significant positive impact on your overall physical health and is considered to be a low impact form of aerobic exercise. Of equal importance is the fact that this constant motion is a form of moving meditation that serves to calm your mind and eliminate your stress.

Yoga originated from India. It is based on breathing, exercising and meditating to facilitate the enhancement of physical and mental health. Yoga instructions usually depend on the needs of the person. Today, it is commonly practiced to relieve one from stress, and for peace of mind. The usual pattern of yoga includes different positions or postures on the floor, either sitting or standing. It often uses the arms to hold the body’s weight, in order to develop strength. Sometimes it causes pressure on the wrists and shoulders. Changes can be made to lessen the stress on the joints. The right information is essential to avoid accidents and injury.

13posturesThe significance of yoga teachings are grouped into three parts: the physical aspect, mental aspect and spiritual aspect. The physical aspect includes flexibility and good balance. It has also been discovered that yoga can help increase energy, improve breathing and circulatory health, relieve pain, increase vitality, cause weight-loss and make one feel and look younger. It also builds muscle tone, and helps alleviate asthma and carpal tunnel syndrome. Secondly, the mental aspect includes relaxation, especially in handling stressful situations, peacefulness of the mind, and helps to foster positive thinking and self-acceptance. The spiritual aspect promotes consciousness of one’s feelings, body and the environment. It encourages reliance between the body, mind and spirit. Pain is not the virtue of yoga.

Tai Chi, ‘supreme ultimate’, came from China during the 1300′s.  It is a soft martial art, designed to work out the muscles and joints using a gentle and low impact method. It involves positions or postures while standing and taking steps. The legs are used to carry the body, while the arms are moving slowly and gracefully in the air. The posture is continuous to make certain that the body is in unvarying motion. The movement should come from the internal part of the body (the abdomen and the back), and not from the external part (arms and shoulders).

Tai Chi is good for relaxation and concentration. It can develop strength, balance and flexibility. It also helps in staying stress free, and boosts stamina and energy. It’s low impact helps lubricate the joints, and is good for those suffering from arthritis. Tai Chi is more of a mind, than body exercise, with gentle movements. It can be practiced at any age.

Kathy Kiefer

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