Complement your running with Tai Chi or Yoga

How Tai Chi and Yoga can help runners

Tai Chi and Yoga are excellent activities to complement your running training. Both are rewarding activities that better prepare the body for running. Here's the low-down on Tai Chi and yoga for runners.

A regular yoga or Tai Chi class can be energizing and motivating. Combining these activities with a running program can lead to tremendous benefits including reduced stress, an enhanced immune system and better physical and emotional health.

Yoga

A weekly yoga workout provides the body with a break from running and enhances strength, agility, balance, and concentration. Yoga is one of the six classic Indian arts and consists of physical and mental exercises to make the body strong, supple and healthy.

The word yoga means 'union' or 'joining’; the bringing together of the various aspects of one's being; physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga involves techniques for stretching, strengthening, breathing and relaxing the body and works at aligning the spine and stimulating abdominal organs to encourage better health.

Recommended by physicians and chiropractors, yoga is invigorating and motivating, but can also create a deep inner peace. The effects of yoga practice are seen to be both curative and preventative and will be reflected not only in the body but also the mind and spirit.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi can best be described as a form of movement combining yoga and meditation. Its origins are credited to monk Chang San-feng, who lived sometime between 960 AD and 1460 AD, although some argue he is a mythical figure.

Derived from martial arts, the slow graceful movements in Tai Chi reflect the natural movements of animals and birds, as symbols or 'pictures'. Muscles and joints are kept in motion and regular breathing is thought to sedate the central nervous system, in turn helping to stimulate improvements throughout the body.

Tai Chi is de-stressing and calming. When practiced properly, Chi energy is increased and you can often feel tingling in your fingers and toes and a ‘warming up’ of the body.

There are various schools or styles of Tai Chi: Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun styles. Some classes cover the full curriculum by looking at form, pushing hands, applications, and weapons, but there are also those focusing predominately on the health aspects of Tai Chi. These may concentrate more on the hand form, Qigong exercises and meditation.

A Tai Chi form is made up of separate 'moves' joined by a transition called a 'link'. Each movement may be very short, or made up of a complex sequence of sub-moves. Although each is an individual definitive element to the form, they flow continually into each other and are not practised as separates.

Learning Tai Chi is not a quick process. Learning the form is about repetition: learn a move, practise it until you get the hang of it; then add another move a few days later. Practise the two moves together; then learn the next move, and so on, gradually building up. The more the repetition, the more your body becomes in tune, and it (as well as your mind) remembers the movements. Whether yoga or Tai Chi, if you choose to introduce a gentler element into your training, relax and enjoy!

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