Key Differences Between Tai Chi and Yoga

Tai Chi and yoga are calming disciplines that require concentration. Both can further strengthen and flex the body, use coordinated deep breathing, and only need minimal space the size of a mat on the floor for movement. In addition, both are low-impact exercises, meaning, they won’t be too hard on your joints.

Although they might appear as equal disciplines and may have incredible health benefits, there are considerable differences between them. Let us learn about them separately.

Tai Chi

Individuals performing Tai Chi moves [Source]
Tai Chi is an internal and external martial art that originated in China. It focuses on smooth and controlled movements, different stances, good posture, and rhythmic upper and lower body motions. How you perform your breathing while moving is the main focus of the practice.

On the other hand, yoga focuses on the flowing and controlled movements synced with your breathing. However, compared to Tai Chi, the moves in yoga are much slower.

Movements of Tai Chi are believed to have helped the better flow of ‘qi’ (vital energy in the body). Tai Chi resembles striking or defending motions. For this reason, most movements require a posture and stances similar to a Chinese martial warrior moving in slow motion.


Remember that Tai Chi is considered a martial art first and an exercise, second. As an exercise, Tai Chi helps both the mind and the body. There even exists a bow stance in Tai Chi where you move similarly to pulling an arrow with very smooth movements.

These are some of the main benefits of Tai Chi:

  • It teaches you to defend yourself.
  • It improves your aerobic fitness and physical health.
  • There is an improvement in balance and flexibility.
  • It enhances toughness and endurance.
  • It strengthens muscles and makes them stand out.
  • The digestive system works better.
  • It cuts down on stress.
  • It helps control fibromyalgia.
  • Mood disorders, mild depression, and anxiety are lessened.
  • It enhances mental performance.
  • Restful sleep is achieved.

There is a saying that goes something like this: “If a violent attacker came up to people while they were meditating, the yoga specialist would be knocked off their cushion, but the tai chi professional would be able to calmly keep meditating upon dealing with the attacker”.

Hence, the biggest benefit is the aspect of defending yourself. You can also practice Tai Chi with a sword providing additional knowledge on this expertise.


Bodhidharma, an Indian monk, taught the Chinese Shaolin monks the 49 I-ching Chi positions (also known as Tamo). These were a set of yoga-like poses done every morning. It contributed to firmer and more flexible bodies and became the basis of the Shaolin monks’ legendary strength and power.

According to some accounts, these movements were derived from when a crane stuck inside a den with five tigers. The crane’s wings were broken and it couldn’t fly, so it had to rely on its fast movements to avoid the tigers. It moved swiftly and smoothly, and eventually, the tigers backed off.

Through ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are two opposing fundamentals or elements that comprise the universe and everything in it. Tai Chi is said to be a technique that aids people to keep their yin and yang in balance – a necessity for good health.

Tai Chi Sword

An individual wielding the Tai Chi sword [Source]
The Tai Chi sword, although a weapon, is said to focus on preserving life.

With a fascinating history, it has been and is continuously used for various purposes: as a ceremonial sword, a weapon for combat, and as a means for a better lifestyle.

The sword allows for additional postures and movements that can only be performed while using it. These movements are light, refined, and sophisticated. It helps center the body and mind, build strength, and form sturdier balance on your legs.


Individuals participating in stretching and breathing postures in yoga [Source]
Although yoga is not a martial arts practice, it is evident that it influenced Tai Chi. Yoga is a means that helps you gain power, strength, and flexibility. This would allow you to be a better user of both disciplines.

If you’ve ever remained in the yoga Warrior II pose (also known as Virabhadrasana II) for a few full exhalation cycles, you’ve probably felt the fatigue from keeping yoga poses. On the other hand, Tai Chi relies on moving through a series of relaxed positions rather than staying in one. Because of this, you are less likely to get sore muscles from Tai Chi than from yoga.

Even though there are simple and very gentle yoga flows and there will be harder and physically demanding Tai Chi practices, you can expect to sweat more in an average yoga class.


In yoga, you hold your poses while breathing peacefully and steadily. These poses are not as easy as it sounds, but it is a fantastic workout for your body and mind.

The goal is to be in a certain position and stay there for a few seconds or minutes. The stances will depend on how hard the pose or form is and how it transitions into the next one.

These are some benefits that yoga practitioners have experienced throughout the years:

  • You gain better overall strength and posture benefits than Tai Chi.
  • It boosts the immune system and mental health.
  • Balance and flexibility are improved.
  • It lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier to breathe.
  • It helps relieve back pain and arthritis.
  • It releases endorphins, lessening pain and stress.
  • It keeps a better and healthier sleep cycle.
  • It can ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • It reduces stress and calms the nervous system.
  • It can help people lose weight and create muscle strength.
  • It calms and alerts you better.
  • It also makes your muscles more flexible.

Yoga movements circulate your life energy (also called Prana in Indian Sanskrit) through your body. Standing still during yoga will open your pores in your body which helps in letting your life energy also freely flow everywhere in your system.


Yoga is an Indian spiritual practice that has been around for about 5,000 years. The earliest mentions of it originated in the stone-written Hindu texts called the Vedas. Since these texts are much older than Tai Chi, some even believed that Tai Chi could have stemmed from yoga.

The Indian philosophy says that monks did yoga as a role in their spiritual quest to become enlightened. The Shaolin monks used it to become stronger and then develop their piece of discipline for their minds.

At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, yoga masters traveled to the west. There, they gained attention and followers. It grew as a popular discipline across the western lands, even today.

Winner & Conclusion

The common goal of the Tai Chi & yoga is to bring peace of mind and well-being [Source]

Between the two disciplines, Tai Chi offers better flexibility and defense. Tai Chi is a martial art that will teach you how to move your hands for defending or striking maneuvers. These can often be very handy.

Also, Tai Chi is accessible wherever you are, whereas you can only do yoga with a yoga mat. Hence, Tai Chi is easier and practiced by far more older adults.

Does this make Tai Chi the winner and better discipline? Definitely not.

Both of these disciplines are excellent when practiced together. We can certainly say there is no winner in this battle since both are beneficial and functional, where you can feel your mind and body work as one.

It is up to you to choose the discipline you want your mind to connect to since at the end of the day, it all boils down to personal preferences.