Yoga vs Tai Chi?

What would be the best for staying limber? Has anyone tried both and have an opinion?

Sybil can tell you aboutTai Chi! :wink: Right, Sybil? I’ve attempted it but I have two left feet so I’m sure I did it all wrong. Never was very coordinated!

I do chair yoga, which I love, because when I am feeling well, I can do the moves as offered and when various bits are hurting, modification is easy.
Tai Chi was all standing, and the repetition sometimes led to pain.

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Depends on what works for you!

Before I knew what was wrong with me I started doing a strenuous form of yoga. I’m not super-protective of my joints but I’m pretty sure some of the moves the teacher urged us to do were bad news for my inflamed knees.

Tai Chi fascinates me because it is so apparently gentle yet can feel like a good work out. Someone who is ex-military and therefore used to really testing herself physically said exactly that to me. I’ve done the rounds of rheumatology departments and they all recommend Tai Chi specifically. I find it either causes or sensitises me to pain at the beginning of a session but that pain is often very effectively banished as the session goes on.

I’d like to do yoga as well but my hands are too damaged to support my weight as many moves require. But I’d consider chair yoga, or seated Tai Chi or anything really rather than do nothing which is the big No No!

Ive tried Qigong which is the healing side of tai chi, if you can find a class that does this go for it as its fabulous. Youtube shibashi and you will see the basis of the practice. I’m also now going to a yoga/pilates fusion class, I spoke to the instructor before I started and explained where I was with my mobility and she keeps an eye on me. I’m 46 and one of the youngest in the class but with the least flexibility, feels odd but I’m determined to keep going. The exercises I struggle with are the one relating to where Ive had swelling in my knees as I dont have the strength or movement in them the same.

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Batty, I started to get serious about tai chi when my knees were very swollen and mobility was badly impaired. Some of the principles of tai chi helped me so much. For example, the simple fact that sinking into the hip aids balance on that side helped me tackle stairs safely. I liked that tai chi emphasises protecting the knees yet some tai chi moves helped me to keep them moving even when they were swollen, which is imperative.

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Sybil, thank you for your thoughts on this. I have never done Yoga but after everything I have read Tai Chi or Qigong is the way to go. I went to a place near my home and they ran me through the beginning. You are correct, once I started the pain went to the back of my mind and I concentrated on the movements. I appreciate all the response to my question on this. I think for now I pick Tai Chi and see how it goes.

Hey! Enjoy! And let us know how it goes perhaps?

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Our group at Johns Hopkins has done a large, well controlled randomized controlled trial of people with RA and OA and found yoga was safe, enjoyable, and effective at reducing pain, improving mood, flexibility, and physical well-being. We found 8 weeks of yoga was associated with about 20% improvement in each of these things. I have met researchers who have done carefully controlled studies in tai chi and had similar results. These studies have been peer reviewed and published in leading rheum journals. I have 50-100 presentations at rheumatology meetings and media interviews discussing our results.

So I am comfortable saying either is a good option, with the following caveats. Look for ‘gentle’ yoga classes to start, and avoid anything fast paced or done in heated rooms. You must find an experienced instructor with advanced training in how to work with people with musculoskeletal conditions. Yoga should always been done under the supervision of a teacher in the beginning–do not try and use a Youtube video, for example. Very important to talk first with your rheum and also with the instructor before joining any class so the teacher knows about your condition and can suggest modifications of poses that may stress vulnerable joints. Find a yoga studio, rather than trying out a class in your local gym. And listen to your body. If any pose doesn’t seem like a good idea, or feel right as you move into it, don’t do it. But I can tell you that personally, I feel so much better and am much less stiff when I do yoga regularly (3 times each week).

Good luck. Exercise is important for everyone but absolutely essential for people with arthritis. (However, exercise should never be viewed as an alternative to medicine or rheumatological care.)


I did Tai Chi for a while, it helped a lot with relaxation and stretching. I had to give it up though because the style I was studying put too much pressure on my knee that flares up from the PSA.

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I’m new here and when I read the original question, I was going to suggest trying one or both or even more to see how they make you feel.

I have been heavily involved in martial arts for nearly 35 years and have been an instructor of Kung Fu and Chi Gung for over 20 years.

Prior to being diagnosed with PsA I began leading a Chi Gung Breathing and Stretching class in order to keep me moving, stretching, strengthening and meditating.

I use Taoist, Tibetan, Yoga and modern stretching techniques and exercises (including the Five Tibetan Rites.) This covers about 30 minutes of the class and then we move on to about 15 minutes of Chi Gung meditations (the meditation is guided and includes stationary and moving meditations.)

I designed the class so that it can be enjoyed by anyone and all of the exercises, stretches and meditations can be easily modified for the ability and limitations of the participants.

My best advise to anyone who is looking for movement classes is to find an instructor/leader who takes the time to find out about your limitations, expectations and medical conditions and has the ability and knowledge to modify things when necessary.

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