Yoga, Pilates, Qigong and Tai Chi all combine movement, breathing exercises and meditation to improve physical, mental and emotional health as well as spirituality. All of these practices work on balance, strength, flexibility, posture and mindfulness. And with benefits demonstrated by science: better quality of sleep, reduction of stress and anxiety, reduced risk of heart disease,… Among these disciplines, how to choose the one that will do us the most good?
“These are movements for everyone, really for anyone,” Dr. Vincent Minichiello, professor and specialist in integrative health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, immediately told CNN. To find your way around, it highlights the differences to be taken into account.
A practice linked to Hinduism, yoga is based on the association between various postures and breathing techniques, all in a slow format. Spirituality and the working of the mind are really at the heart of the discipline. There are many variations. On the practical side, yoga studios are often the most widespread, and therefore the most accessible.
Often confused with yoga, Pilates appeared in the West (USA) and much more recently. More dynamic, it is more focused on strengthening and stretching the body, while giving pride of place to breathing and meditation. Its objective is to work the muscles in depth and to correct and balance its posture. Pilates movements require a lot of precision, control and core strength. This is why the risk of injury is generally higher. Be sure to work with a qualified instructor.
Like yoage and Pilates, qi gong combines physical posture and breathing technique. But here, the postures are linked: we find them within sequences of fluid, soft and slow movements. In addition, “Qigong can also be practiced lying down and even by visualization”, adds Vincent Minichiello “so if you have trouble moving your body, you can practice the movements by visualizing them” to circulate your qi (energy).
4. Tai Chi
With its martial art airs, Tai-chi is a variant of qi gong that has become particularly popular in the West. Here too, specific movements follow one another within a well-defined routine. Tai-chi requires much more space, hence it is best practiced outdoors. The sequences of movements of Tai-chi are often more complex to memorize than those of qi gong, simpler and more intuitive.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter which of these practices you end up trying: your body and your mind will appreciate the fact that you take time to take care of yourself,” concludes Dr Minichiello.