Yoga and Tai Chi as Pathways to Better Health

For an investment of 20 minutes each morning, the payback is reduced stress, a sense of calm and peace, improved strength, limberness, better immune function and lower blood pressure.

It’s not too good to be true. The investment is practicing yoga or tai chi, which were developed and revised over many centuries. The October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter includes an in-depth Special Report on Yoga and Tai Chi, covering health benefits, differences between yoga and tai chi, tips for learning postures and poses, simple stretches, how breathing enhances energy, and resources to learn more.

An important advantage of yoga and tai chi is that they combine key elements of exercise — aerobic, strength training, core stability, flexibility and balance — into unified approaches. Certain benefits, particularly stress reduction, can be seen in as little as one day. People report better sleep and improvements in digestive health within the first few days. Better digestive health can mean better bowel function and decreased constipation. Practiced regularly, yoga and tai chi may help reverse some effects of aging, such as restricted and narrowed movements.

After 10 to 12 weeks of regular sessions, practitioners often notice significant health benefits in other areas. For example, a study of yoga and people who experience migraines found that those doing yoga had less frequent and less intense headaches than did those taking medication.

In addition, those who practiced yoga saw improvements in anxiety and depression. Yoga and tai chi can improve bone density and cardiovascular health and decrease blood pressure.

The best way to learn yoga or tai chi is by taking a class or working with a qualified instructor. These classes, which teach the art of breathing, meditation and posing, are offered at many health clubs and senior centers and through community education.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today’s health and medical news. To subscribe, call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit

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