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From outside the studio door, you can't easily tell the difference between yoga and tai chi. Both practices suggest stretching into specific positions or poses, linking breath to movement and letting go of the day's stresses. But the similarities between the two practices don't end there. Practice either and you'll likely enjoy a host of benefits, from increased strength and flexibility to a more balanced approach to life. East Asia meet West Asia -- you to have a lot to talk about.
The roots of a yoga and tai chi practice are as different as can be. Yoga developed as a way of life while tai chi is a primitive form of martial arts. Yet both have grown into the same type of tree. By stretching and balancing your body against and with your body weight, you can grow stronger, and both practices can help increase your range of motion and flexibility, says Luis F. Sierra, Ph.D., a New York-based yoga instructor with more than 25 years of practice on and off his mat. вЂњDoing yoga and tai chi helps us know, understand and develop awareness of where we are in space,вЂќ he told the American Association of Retired Persons for an article on its website.
Developing a tai chi or yoga practice can help train your mind to grow quiet and let go of the stresses waiting at home or in the office. During your practice, outside doesn't exist. Failure doesn't exist. You, your mat, your instructor and the people with whom you share your practice exist. Tai chi enthusiast Susana Barciela compares her practice to вЂњmoving meditation,вЂќ and a 2012 study published in the вЂњJournal of Developmental and Behavioral PediatricsвЂќ found that the overall mood of high school students who practiced yoga improved.
Feeling under the weather? Take a yoga or tai chi class, because either practice will help boost your immune system, says Nilza Kallos, a Florida-based breast health specialist. She introduces her patients, many of them women diagnosed with breath cancer, to the holistic properties that tai chi and yoga offer. And MayoClinic.com agrees, suggesting that your practice can help several health conditions, including cancer, depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia. But don't expect either to cure you of everything that ails you, cautions MayoClinic.com. Your practice вЂњcan help some health conditions when combined with standard treatment.вЂќ
Your instructor may suggest that finding balance in your movements and poses during your practice may help you find balance in your life. Combine the overall physical, mental and health benefits and you'll likely feel better, not just in terms of your health but also about yourself. And over time, the more often you access a pose in each type of practice, or fully inhabit a movement, you'll see that movements that once were difficult have become easier. You can stand on one leg without tipping over. You can extend your right leg in front of you while raising your arms above your head. You can do all of this and more, largely because of your yoga or tai chi practice. And before you know it, either or both will not just be exercise but will become a way of life.