How Yoga and Tai Chi can benefit your chess

By | 9 novembre 2017

I remember one day listening to the radio and hearing a Yoga teacher saying that in 2 words, Yoga is the science of happiness.

I don’t know how true this is, but as a form of meditation, Yoga constitutes another good way of training for improving both your energy and mental levels. And it seems Tai Chi is not in rest.

First, let’s review what Yoga is with an easy definition.  Then I’ll discuss its benefits for chess and finally, we’ll see which type of practice could suit you the best and why Tai Chi is an excellent alternative.

What is Yoga exactly?

According to Wikipedia, Yoga is an old discipline from India which is both spiritual and physical. Yoga uses breathing techniques, exercise and meditation and claims to improve health and happiness.

Basically, you will move your body into various positions in order to become more fit or flexible, to improve your breathing, and to relax your mind.

If you are intrigued, have a look on YouTube to see what a Yoga session looks like.

5 great benefits of Yoga for a chess player

Mostly because of its relaxing effects, Yoga has been extremely popular these recent years. And as a result, numerous studies have been conducted to prove the benefits of the discipline. I have pointed out 5 of them below, which will definitely help in your chess journey.

  • Releases physical tensions: As a form of stretching, Yoga can lead areas such as your back, neck or shoulders to an increased flexibility and strength. So that you will feel progressively less tense or tight due to these awful slouching positions you can have while sitting during a chess game or at the office. And when a part of your body hurts, Yoga could help decrease the inflammation.
  • Decreases stress level: While practicing, you will lower your heart rate and breathe deeply which will consequently calm your stress and anxiety. That is why Yoga is also known as a good anti-depression remedy.
  • Gives you vitality: Being also a physical activity, Yoga is good for regaining this lost energy when you’re feeling sluggish during the afternoon slump.
  • Improves focus: By becoming calmer and in control of your body, your brain will progressively find back its focus. Yoga can thus increase mindfulness.
  • Prevents sickness: If there is something which can prevent you from playing, it is definitely sickness. So why not do a bit of Yoga to reinforce your immune system?

Actually, the list doesn’t stop there. If you feel like it, here is a link with everything Yoga can bring to your health.

What type of Yoga will help me the most?

I got it; Yoga is the perfect combo to strengthen both my body and mind. I want to try but where do I start?

Here is the thing actually. There are many sorts of yoga to choose from all with specific and more often than not intimidating names. Have a look on Wikipedia to see how confusing it can be.

While all types of Yoga globally quiet your mind and release tensions in your body, you can distinguish 3 categories with each one having a more specific focus. I will explain them briefly and give you  2 examples of styles for each one 

Note that if you’re only interested in  chess improvement, the second section is obviously the most relevant. But depending on your own objectives, it is up to you to see what best suits your needs.


These Yoga types focus mainly on a calming stretching routine. You will mostly use them to decompress after a stressful day, but they’re also good to find back your body flexibility and or balance.

  • Restorative Yoga
  • Hatha Yoga

Steady mind

This category  focuses on being more mindful with meditation and breathing repetitions.

  • Kundalini Yoga
  • Yin Yoga

Physical stimulation

They are also more vigorous Yoga techniques but

  • Ashtanga Yoga
  • Bikram Yoga

You will find here a list with a quick description of each Yoga style.

To get the most out of it, you should choose the one that matches your current fitness level, as well as your personality and reasons for practicing yoga.

So try different options and see what works for you.

Tai Chi alternative

Known as the “slower version of martial arts,” tai chi is a type of exercise that originated in China and combines sport with dance to create an elegant flow of self-expression.

Why am I introducing it to you? Because Tai-Chi represents an excellent alternative for some of you who might not be inspired by Yoga.

Both forms emphasize breathing and stretching, but tai chi is probably more focused on moving forms, while yoga is often taught as a series of ‘poses’.

The benefits are quite similar so it will support your chess as well. Here is a video to have an overview.

Final word, please take some precautions

It is important to check with your doctor before trying Yoga or Tai-Chi. Since both disciplines involve some degree of stretching, it is highly recommended not to practice right before or after your workout. Observe ideally 5 to 6 hours difference between your work out and a Yoga or Tai Chi session.

So unless you have already experimented with Yoga or Tai Chi, opt for beginner’s style and don’t take unnecessary risk especially if you have some injuries.

I personally opted for Yoga. I do it 2 to 3 times a week late in the evening to relax and attempt to increase my flexibility in the same occasion. Early in the morning or late in the evening seem to be the best options if you don’t want to interfere with any other physical activity. But you can also use Yoga as a good breaking technique for days when you don’t have time for sport.

That said, you know the benefits and how to start Yoga and Tai Chi safely. It is up to you now!