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Category Archives: Exercise

How Yoga and Tai Chi Complement Each Other

Yoga and tai chi have several elements in common, but they also provide distinct benefits. This is how they are alike and different:

Alike

Both are mind-body arts that work by regulating and integrating body, breath, and mind, and are suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions. Practice is meditative, and benefits include reduced stress, improved balance and posture, elevated awareness, and enhanced healing and immune function.

Distinct

Yoga emphasizes range of motion, tai chi emphasizes fluidity of motion. Yoga focuses on opening the joints as much as possible, tai chi focuses on freeing the joints as much as possible. Yoga tends to make the joints exposed, tai chi tends to keep the joints protected. Yoga is practiced solo, tai chi can only be practiced fully with a partner. Balance in yoga is mostly static, balance in tai chi is mostly dynamic.  Yoga develops more external strength, tai chi develops more sensitivity.  Yoga inverts the body, tai chi does not.  Yoga evolved from devotional practices, tai chi evolved from healing practices.

How Yoga Can Benefit Your Tai Chi Practice

If you already practice tai chi, yoga will reinforce the benefits, as well as provide an extra degree of external strength, range of motion, and breathing capacity to complement your internal energy development, all of which will make your tai chi more powerful and effective.

How Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Yoga Practice

If you already practice yoga, tai chi will reinforce the benefits.  It will also help to develop fluidity of motion and active relaxation in addition to stability of structure.  It will help you to maintain your balance and poise in the face of interference, such as while moving and being pushed around by another person.  It will teach you to avoid joint posture vulnerability, as well as how to issue and absorb large amounts of force.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Exercise, Health, Tai Chi

 

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Tai Chi Is Sensitivity Training

To get bigger, stronger, faster, we use resistance to work our muscles to exhaustion repeatedly. This is what strength training is for.

To become more flexible, we stretch to lengthen our tendons and muscles and increase our range of motion. This is what yoga is for.

In tai chi we don’t do either of these things, so what is tai chi for?

Tai chi is for building the nervous system. In tai chi you don’t see the results as bigger muscles or increased range of motion, but rather as the effects of increased neurological development. Through tai chi training you become more receptive and responsive to internal and external feedback. Physically the aim is to increase effectiveness, rather than capacity.

In truth all three of these types of training (strength, flexibility, sensitivity) have distinct and complementary benefits, so a balanced physical training regimen will incorporate all of them, regardless of what it is called.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Exercise

 

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The Number One Reason (And Way) To Be Fit

…is to feel good moving.

The capacity for movement is freedom to move, and freedom is pleasure.

And not only is freedom pleasurable, so is the exploration itself. Pain does not equal gain. What truly builds us up feels good, and has its own innate draw.

Nor is it necessary to move “correctly” to enjoy the freedom of exploration. Correct movement ultimately comes from listening to and following the body’s innate wisdom and guidance, not from overlaying a template onto it. Many will study for years to learn patterns, only to then struggle for years more to unlearn them. Natural movement comes about naturally, and what is imposed is not natural.

If you pay attention, you will realize that your body wants to move. All you have to do is let it.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Exercise, Health, Tai Chi Practice

 

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Sex Versus Push Hands

Given a choice between sex with a mediocre partner and push hands with a great partner…

I’d choose push hands.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Exercise, Tai Chi Practice

 

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Fluidity Versus Flexibility

As distinct from yoga, tai chi is not so much concerned with increasing the range of motion as it is with cultivating freedom of movement within whatever range of motion exists.  This is the difference between fluidity and flexibility.

This is just an ordering of priorities, and does not reflect a rigid hierarchy.  In either practice, both should be emphasized, the difference is in which one is emphasized first.

Why emphasize fluidity before flexibility?  Because effectiveness generally depends more on responsiveness than capacity.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Exercise

 

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Non-Volitional Movement

An experiment: sit or stand erect, and let your arms hang by your sides.  Lift them upwards swiftly, so that they are straight overhead.  Do this a couple of times and notice how your shoulders and trapezius engage with tension to create this motion.

Now let your arms hang by your sides, completely relaxed.  Let your shoulders and arms become lighter and lighter, until they are so light that they begin to float.  Let them to continue to float upwards, consciously relaxing your shoulders, moving as slowly and steadily as they can, barely overcoming the pull of gravity, until they are straight overhead, or as high as they can go without creating tension in your shoulders.

If you can feel a difference between these two types of movement, then you are experiencing the contrast between volitional and non-volitional movement.  Volitional movement is how most of us move most of the time, by creating tension through exertion.  Non-volitional movement is willed but not forced, intended but not demanded.

Your tai chi practice should cultivate non-volitional movement and avoid volitional movement as much as possible.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Exercise, Tai Chi Practice

 

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The 70% Rule

The 70% rule is a principal based in the healing function of qigong.  It says: “For best results, exercise at 70% of your maximum capacity.”

This applies to duration, intensity, and range of movement.  How long you practice, how intensely you exert, and how far you stretch, should all be at 70% of your maximum capacity.

100% is your edge.  If you get too close to your edge, your body will contract, making practice ineffective, and if you push beyond it, you will damage and exhaust yourself.  If you approach it slowly, hanging out in the 70% region, it will gently expand to accommodate you.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Exercise, Health

 

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