5 Benefits of Adding Tai Chi to Your Yoga Practice

If you’re like me, then you can find it difficult at times to keep up with your own at-home yoga practice. You get tired of doing the same thing and maybe don’t have enough inspiration that week to do more than a simple cat and cow combo.

Perhaps its time to consider implementing Tai chi. As a teacher, I found the benefits of Tai chi to be not only aid my own practice, but those of my students as well. Here are five reasons why Tai chi can help take your yoga practice above and beyond. 

1. It Enhances How You Stand

So often we move quickly through our Tadasana pose and don’t fully recognize our bodies in this space, this simple space of “just standing” isn’t as easy as it looks. When you start to incorporate Tai Chi techniques and mentality into this pose, you quickly begin to discover that there is so much more to this. 

When you’re taking a tai chi class and you focus “simply” on standing, you are guided to utilize the gravitational pull to relax the body (Tai chi is all about relaxation). By relaxing in this pose with the help of gravity you are conserving energy, which in turn is cultivating powerful Qi (also known as Prana in the yoga world). 

2. It Aids the Breath

In yoga we focus a lot on pranayama and the art of breath work, but Tai chi takes this to a whole new level. We all love it when our teachers throw in a "breath of joy" or a "breath of fire" breath into class. It makes it more cathartic, and you likely feel more connected to your body and space. 

By incorporating taji breathing methods into your yoga practice you learn how to supercharge your whole body with vital energy, which in turn opens and heals joints. Learning these special Tai chi breaths are key to engaging in your body and healing during your time on the mat. 

3. It Loosens You Up

As I’ve mentioned before, Tai chi is all about learning to relax. This is essential in loosening the body. Many yogis (myself included) too often pop into a pose or start an at-home practice without the proper warm-up techniques. This can be harmful to our bodies, as it can cause strain or lead to injurt.

If you incorporate just a little bit of the "loosening up portion" of Tai chi into your yoga practice, you will find an immense amount of space in the body. The techniques for loosening up in Tai chi are quick, to the point, and effective. You can’t go wrong doing a few wrist rolls before you pop up into that crow pose. 

4. It Helps Stretch and Lengthen Your Spine

Most teachers and practitioners of yoga and Tai chi will agree that stretching your spine is highly beneficial for your health and well-being, for both your practice and your day-to-day activities. In yoga, there are a ton of ways to stretch, lengthen and breathe into your spine. 

Tai chi uses gravity to relax the spine by allowing the spinal vertebrae and discs to gently open. In Chen Style Tai Chi, taught by Dr. Bob Bacher, you learn how to self-adjust any spinal misalignments. (That’s right! You can self-adjust in Tai chi!) That means no more wishing that the teacher would come over and push on you to get that extra bit of length; Tai chi allows you to do this all on your own.

5. It Helps You Let Go

We are always encouraging ourselves and our students to go deeper and let go of the negative things we might be carrying. For some, it’s hard to even figure out what it is that we’re holding on to in the first place. This is where the Tai chi comes in.

Tai chi is based on the principle of letting go and relaxing. The more relaxed you are, the less tension that you hold, and then the more your Qi (chi) can flow through your body, cultivating health and strength of body and mind. Even if you're unable to pinpoint your stress, Tai chi will help you release excess tension. 

I encourage you to pop into a Tai Chi - Yoga Connection Workshop, hit up a beginners tai chi retreat, or locate your local tai chi center to learn a few relaxing, strengthening, and enlightening movements. Changing your practice will help change your life.