Tai Chi is more than a slow moving dance, it's a categorizing of things...
This black and white circle symbolizes polar opposites and how all opposites can be trained to balance each other. Yin being the black side and Yang being the white. The simple answer to the question above is yin= resting and yang= activity. The more complex answer would be yin is the relaxed muscle and yang is the tense muscle. These answers, however true, still do not get to the root of the question- how does this theory relate to exercise. In exercise there are yang types and yin types; ultimately the type of exercise can be rated on a gradient by the primary muscles used (slow/fast twitch, gross movement/postural), for strength/relaxation, and how moderate or explosive.
Why is this even important? The idea is that for all things to function to the best of their ability these two attributes must be balanced. In this way exercise truly benefits our physical, mental and emotional health. Categorizing these things is the first step to balancing them.
Down below you will find a chart illustrating the correlating yin and yang attributes of exercise.
Practicing Tai Chi philosophy in exercise requires balancing yin and yang types of exercise. When looking at various sports, training programs, and martial arts if you want to achieve lasting progress with little to no injury you must balance yin and yang. In short this means a well rounded balanced form of cross training.
For your focus on yang based exercises you must have a yin based practice to support it, and vice versa. A simple example is weight lifting and Tai Chi, Chi Kung or Yoga. The reason many weight lifters add Yoga to their practice is for the stretching and postural basis it uses that heals and safeguards their joints from injury. The same with Kung Fu and Tai Chi Chuan the structural focus and slow gradual stretching of Tai Chi Chuan heals and relaxes the high intensity and explosive movements of Kung Fu. In various martial arts this balance is found, if not completely encompassed by the martial art, then by cross training it with other arts. A prime example of this is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s Rickson Gracie, he has achieved great results by merging Yoga and BJJ to better his art and health, as seen in the video below.
Regardless of the art trained, exercise//sport practiced Yin and Yang are both required for great lasting progress. This is the “Way of Great Polarity” the “Tai Chi Chuan” of training. Balance your methods and you will build enduring strength and control. I choose to do this by training in Tai Chi Chuan, Kung Fu, and Mixed Martial Arts. Weight lifting, calisthenics, running, and dynamic along with static stretching all hold important places in everything I train in as well.
Find what you enjoy on both sides of Yin and Yang and be sure to balance one with the other.
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu
Tai Chi Chuan
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage