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Taoist Yoga

Yoga is a popular form of exercise taught throughout the world. It addresses balance, stretching, strength-building and relaxation. If you are already quite fit and want to become more supple, then Taoist Yoga is an ideal choice.

Not so fit?

If you are unfit, overweight, not supple and sedentary, then yoga is perhaps not the best starting place. In lieu of patience and relaxation, beginners are apt to force the stretch and this may result in injury. Straining and exerting are unwise if you are out of shape.

Start mild

Qigong and tai chi for health are a wise starting place for the unfit. Although the exercises are notably challenging there is virtually no risk of injury. Your body is gently coaxed into suppleness without forcing an outcome. More earnest stretching comes later...


Fear blocks Tao by warping our perception. It sends us guiltily into the past or anxiously into the future, rather than letting us relax into the present.

(Wolf Lowenthal)

Be patient

Once the required standard of fitness has been reached in qigong, we offer students the opportunity to study Taoist Yoga (tao yin).

Tao yin

Tao yin refers to a wide selection of stretching exercises designed to improve circulation and boost the flow of oxygen within the body. It is commonly referred to as 'Taoist Yoga'.
The stretches work the legs, back and psoas in particular.

Mild stretches

Taoist Yoga is a gentle way to exercise the body:

Simple to perform
Easy to learn
Improves balance
Meditation exercise
Encourages a calm mind and composed emotions
Does not strain the body
Emphasis is placed upon allowing rather than forcing
Improves skeletal alignment and poise
No exotic/strenuous postures
Can be practiced by most people

Releasing rather than forcing
The aim is to relax into the release the muscles, rather than force the body. In order to further release muscular tension and aid flexibility, the body is sometimes massaged during the stretch.
It is encouraged to lengthen naturally. Typically the same exercise is performed a few times to enable a fuller release.

Freedom from tension
Modern living leads to most people accumulating unwanted tightness in their muscles. This limits their range of movement. Common causes:

  1. Too much sitting

  2. Repetitive activities

  3. Insufficient exercise

  4. Straining/forcing the body

  5. Sport

  6. Dehydration

  7. Poor sleep

  8. Stress

Tao yin exercises are an excellent way to free the body and mind from tension.

Sedentary lifestyle
Many young people begin to lose their flexibility in their 20's and 30's and seldom regain it. The main problem is laziness. There is no point in lying/being overly tactful about this...


Sitting for lengthy periods of time is bad for the body. It causes muscles to tighten, circulation to suffer, the eyes to become fixed and the mind to dull. The legs, lower back and shoulders typically become weak, tight and often quite painful. Tao yin stretching slowly reverses the problem. 

What is the difference between Taoist Yoga and the various forms of hatha yoga (Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram, Vinyasa etc)? 

In real terms, the approaches are quite similar although there are differences. Both use semi-static postures. Both employ specialised breathing. Both are designed to harmonise and strengthen the body.


Hatha literally means 'willpower' and has the connotation of the mind dominating the body. Taoist Yoga adopts a much milder approach; patiently encouraging release rather than forcing a stretch.
It combines patient relaxing with gentle self-massage. If a yoga posture proves to be too challenging or uncomfortable, try an alternative posture.


Usually, tao yin is practiced alongside qigong and tai chi. By combining stretching and movement, the body receives a varied, comprehensive workout. The relaxation that arises from qigong aids the body in tao yin stretching. This then facilitates a greater range of internal massage during tai chi practice.

Different to qigong
Taoist Yoga serves a similar purpose to qigong but accomplishes the outcome through different means. Qigong movement has more in common with tai chi and serves as a building block for tai chi form (e.g. the arms are only lengthened to 70% of reach, whole-body movement predominates). Tao yin is primarily concerned with releasing, self-massage and breathing.


Flexibility and aging are related concerns. The Tao Te Ching introduced this insight; advising that young things are pliable whilst the old and dying are brittle.
It is essential that tai chi students have a balanced workout; and this should involve an extensive stretching regime. Suppleness will make your body last longer and improve your quality of life.


In our syllabus, Taoist Yoga is offered to class members who know the basic strength-building exercises:

  1. Qigong exercises
    - ba duan jin
    - moving qigong
    - reeling silk exercises
    - stretches & joint work
    - full circle qigong
    - qigong development

  2. Long Yang form

  3. Psoas work

  4. Leg stretches

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 04 May 2023