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Tai Chi Body Types

by Joseph K. Kim

Common Yin-Yang Pairings


  • Cold
  • Descending
  • Passive
  • Slow
  • Stillness
  • Potential energy
  • Conservation
  • Contraception
  • Centripetal


  • Hot
  • Ascending
  • Active
  • Quick
  • Movement
  • Kinetic energy
  • Transformation
  • Transformation
  • Centrifugal

Yin-Yang in Daily Life and Nature


  • Moon
  • Night
  • Cloudy day
  • Autumn/Winter
  • Water
  • Earth
  • Plants


  • Sun
  • Day
  • Clear day
  • Spring/Summer
  • Fire
  • Heaven

Tai Chi Symbol and Body Types
We may obtain an interesting view of the body types by dividing the Tai Chi symbol in half and turning those halves in different directions. The resulting shapes give us rough profiles of the different body types, illustrating where the Chi energy goes and where development is greatest.

Figure 4.1 represents the Taiyangs. The region corresponding to the head (top and rear) protrudes the most, representing the concentration of energy in the head and neck in this constitution. This shape conjures up images of an alien (ET), Godzilla, a dragon, or a male lion.

Figure 4.2 represents the Shaoyangs. In the diagram above, you can see that the energy is focused on the front upper region of the figure (the area of the chest and shoulders), revealing that Shaoyangs have the greatest development there. You can visualize a soldier or a body builder standing, keeping his shoulders back and sticking his chest out.

Figure 4.3 represents the Taiyins. The diagram reveals that Taiyin energy is focused on the front and lower part of the body (especially the abdomen area). Imagine the stereotypical potbelly of a businessman or of Santa Claus when viewed from the side.

Figure 4.4 represents the Shaoyins. It is bottom heavy and the energy is primarily concentrated in the rear lower portion. Similarly, Shaoyins are bottom heavy people, with energy concerntrated mainly in their hips and buttocks. Try to visualize a kangaroo, a squirrel, or a rat viewed from the side.

A balanced diet should:

  • Be simple, yet comprehensive and holistic.
  • Serve as the basic foundation to help you overcome physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual imbalances.
  • Help you maximize vitality so that you feel more energetic, balanced, in tune, lighter, and happier.
  • Enhance and support your physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines.
  • Clear the body of wastes and toxins and help to maintain proper and natural body weight.
  • Help correct imbalances in your body type, strengthening what is weak, and normalizing what is excessively strong.
  • Prevent and remedy diseases.
  • Enhance both Eastern and Western medical treatments.

General Guidelines for Taiyins

  • Exercise regularly. It is absolutely important for Taiyins to incorporate sufficient amounts of exercise (at least to the extent that they sweat profusely) into their daily routines. Whenever Taiyins feel tired or heavy, they should do some form of exercise. Taking a brisk walk, riding a stationary bike, running on a treadmill, swimming, or doing mild aerobic exercises are all fine. Whatever form of exercise is adopted, it is important that the breathing deepens and the circulation gets going as a result. If Taiyins cannot exercise, then they should at least go to a sauna to sweat.
  • Get plenty of fresh air. Although everyone needs to get as much fresh air as possible, Taiyins in particular need it to balance out their constitutional Lung weakness. Waking up early and exercising outdoors in the fresh air, especially near trees or the ocean, will be of tremendous benefit to them. Tai Chi or Qi Gong exercises in particular are good for strengthening their Lungs. Outdoor sports such as fishing, golf, or hiking can also be helpful.
  • Of the four body types, Taiyins respond best to heavy, intense, prolonged physical exercises. The reason for this is that Taiyins have a lot of energy in reserve and only high, extended levels of exertion can release this energy. A moderate amount of physical exercise is also the best remedy for Taiyins’ fatigue, stress, , fear, and depression. To this end, exercises such as calisthenics and weight training are ideal. Many Taiyins are overweight, and this type of exercise regimen will also help them to lose weight. Be sure to warm up and cool down properly to prevent injury.
  • Other types of physical exercises that Taiyins can participate in with great benefit are racquet sports such as badminton, racquetball, squash, ping-pong, and tennis.
  • Taiyins should try to keep their necks in straight, comfortable alignment with the rest of their bodies. They should also try to remove all the tension from their abdomens.
  • Yoga positions that suspend a person in an upside-down position for a short period of time (such as shoulder stands, plows, and headstands) are excellent for Taiyins. Talk to a qualified Yoga instructor for instructions on the proper way to perform these exercises before engaging in them yourself.
  • Exercises that involve bouncing movements, such as jumping on a trampoline, are excellent for Taiyins. Bouncing movements help activate the dormant energy in their bodies, thereby putting zip and bounce back into the lives of Taiyins. A word of caution: those that have knee or lower back problems must practice caution.

General Benefits: This exercise increases lung capacity. It also promotes circulation, especially in the head and neck regions, and strengthens the chest, shoulder, and arm muscles.
As this exercise centers its activity on the Lungs, Taiyins will derive the most benefit from it. The improved breathing and increased overall circulation derived from this exercise will help increase energy as well as move stagnant and dormant energy, bringing them back to balanced health.

Chi Kung Exercise: Dynamic Punch

  1. Stand in a horse stance. Make a fist with both hands and bring them to your waist with the palms upward (Fig. 9.20).
  2. Look to your left as you punch to the left, with your fist in a horizontal position, palm down (Fig. 9.21). Then bring the fist back to the waist and repeat to the right side with the right fist (in horizontal position). Return to the starting position.
  3. Punch with the left hand straight in front of you, with your fist in a vertical position (Fig. 9.22), with the thumb on top. Bring your fist back and repeat with the right fist (in vertical position). Punch out slowly, but forcibly. It is important in this exercise to hold the eyes wide open, glaring fiercely at an imaginary opponent.

General Benefits: This exercise regulates the breathing and increases the vitality of the whole body, building energy and strength. It also improves concentration and promotes the smooth circulation of Qi and blood throughout the body. Furthermore, it helps to release pent-up anger, thereby relieving stress.

This movement assists overall bodily circulation, especially through the dispersal of stagnant energy in the Liver. This makes it excellent for Taiyins. As things move slowly within Taiyins, energy easily stagnates and transforms into internal heat, resulting in emotional imbalances. This exercise releases and disperses that heat and energy, helping to restore Taiyins to a balanced state.


  • Be very cautious about becoming excessively joyful or pleased. Taiyins are prone to fluctuations of pleasure and joy, and these emotions have the potential to damage their innately weak Lungs if they are not properly controlled. As both of these emotions cause the body s energy to descend, when they become excessive, the Lungs are unable to perform the function of raising and dispersing energy.
  • Release the fear of starting something new. Most Taiyins are afraid of new beginnings and hold their fears inside of themselves. When this fear becomes great, they become incapable of doing anything. To prevent this, Taiyins must learn to eliminate their fear of starting new projects. If they do not, then they will never truly progress in life. Once Taiyins shift their attention away from themselves, and onto others, they are able to overcome many of their fears. This coincidentally tends to make them more morally upright, in the sense that they shift from selfish motives to more altruistic ones. Once this is accomplished, Taiyins are able to work at their optimum level, with persistence and patience, gradually earning the trust and confidence of those around them.
  • Learn to meditate. Again, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of meditation in balancing each constitution. Although it may seem as though meditation is an introspective act, something that Taiyins typically would not need, it is actually one of the most effective means to settling Taiyins’ fears. Meditation actually helps Taiyins to see the big picture, allowing them to become more balanced.
  • Stay active. As long as Taiyins are actively pursuing their goals, they will succeed, whether it is in the personal, social, business, political, or financial sphere. Taiyins are the most inertial of the four body types. When in motion, they are steady and unstoppable, but when they are still, it is extremely difficult to start them moving again.
  • Be careful of overindulging in recreational activities. Taiyins tend to get too much pleasure out of them. They must be careful not to overindulge in these activities in order to keep healthy.
  • Taiyins must improve their interpersonal relationships by becoming less selfish, obstinate, closed-minded, suspicious, and greedy. In other words, they should reduce their tendency to dominate and look down upon other people. At the same time, they should try to be flexible and understanding and strive to listen to the opinions of others carefully. Also, they must develop their moral integrity so that they can properly distinguish between what is good for the whole and what will only be of benefit to themselves.
  • It is important for Taiyins to reduce their tendency to over-accumulate possessions. Taiyins by nature tend to store and save without letting go or dispersing. As a result, they easily become stuck in the never-ending quest to acquire and maintain material wealth, status, knowledge, love, and energy. Dr. Lee offered Taiyins the following warning on this matter: “If Taiyins totally become immersed in the maintenance of their domestic affairs, they will become overly avaricious.”
  • Follow the wise old saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Taiyins on the whole tend to find comfort only in the present state of things. They must come to the realization that theirs is not the only world. Taiyins should read, listen, and travel more so that they can reach out to the world and avoid becoming a frog stuck in a well.
  • A key to longevity for Taiyins lies in settling their fearful minds by paying less attention to their own personal problems, and more attention to outside matters. In other words, they should reduce their excessive egotistical desires and practice more altruistic deeds.

At first glance, there would seem to be little hope for the Taiyang-Taiyin combination. Taiyangs will not tolerate the lazy, greedy nature of the Taiyin constitution any better than they will the conservative, status quo attitude of the typical Taiyin. Moreover, Taiyang are in a hurry. They have a sense of urgency that permeates every aspect of their lives, whether they’re on their way to an important meeting or filling up their gas tank. Taiyins, on the other hand, act as if they have all the time in the world and don’t like to be rushed. They dislike movement and like to remain still. However, it is the extremely understanding, patient, and magnanimous nature of the Taiyin that makes them the only constitution that can tolerate the extreme behaviors of the Taiyang partner. Taiyins will, in fact, respect and honor the air of authority projected by the Taiyang partner. Thus, it is the Taiyang/Taiyin couple who will realize the greatest degree of harmony without denying their innate constitutional tendencies.

Because Yang energy dominates the Shaoyang body types (though in a weaker form than in Taiyangs), Shaoyangs complement both Taiyins and Shaoyins, the constitutions in which Yin energy dominates. Unlike Taiyangs, Shaoyangs are more tolerant of differences in others.

Shaoyangs are up and about, unable to remain still; Taiyins dislike movement and prefer stillness. Taiyins place great importance on domesticity and self-indulgence, whereas Shaoyangs focus on outside matters and tend to neglect family and the home. In these ways, a Shaoyang and a Taiyin are well-equipped to handle each other’s innate flaws. The obstinate, selfish Taiyin will not bother the oblivious Shaoyang. Furthermore, the quick decision-making abilities, charm, and cleverness of the Shaoyang will actually balance the dull, conservative tendencies of the Taiyin. Moreover, the fickle, impulsive, and hot-blooded Shaoyang may find solace in the patient, calm, stable, and understanding Taiyin, who will provide encouragement and make amends easily. This combination can, however, become seriously unbalanced. For example, when Taiyins are consumed in their work, they may become easily irritated by the Shaoyang’s curious, intrusive, and fickle nature. Further discord may arise if the Taiyin partner persists in promoting his or her opinion on domestic affairs to the Shaoyang, who would prefer to ignore them. Thus, this couple will also need to cultivate patience, prudence, and understanding in order to take advantage of their innate differences and achieve harmony.

Due to their magnanimous nature, Taiyins are the most tolerant of all constitutions. Their tendency to honor family and to feel at ease with themselves are qualities that often serve them well in relationships. Taiyin women, in particular, usually find great contentment as wives, mothers, and homemakers. Inasmuch as their overly developed lower bodies and strong reproductive organs make them well-equipped to bear children, these are roles as to which they are well-suited. Taiyin men, though also family oriented, tend to focus their efforts on working to support the family. As a result, they may sometimes appear distant from their families, even though they care for them very much.

Two Taiyins
A relationship between two Taiyins has the potential for great longevity simply because they are so similar, and neither is likely to complain when a conflict arises. They tend to view each other as friends and equals. However, because they both dislike moving and lack motivation to begin any new projects, there is the risk that the couple will degenerate into physical and mental laziness. Moreover, their mutual emphasis on domesticity, combined with their tendency towards stillness, can manifest as idleness. The Taiyin couple are prime candidates for turning each other into couch potatoes.

Taiyin women tend to gravitate to traditional homemaker roles and to yield domestic authority to their husbands. Taiyin men likewise tend to hold conservative values and prefer their wives to assume traditional roles as well. Together, Taiyin couples often create a contented and congruent family life. However, with nobody around to initiate activity, the Taiyin couple risks creating a relationship devoid of fun, mirth, or spontaneity. For this relationship to succeed, one partner must override the innate tendency towards idleness and initiate some form of activity. Due to their magnanimous natures, Taiyins are the most tolerant of each other’s constitutional behavior; but due to their innate laziness and idleness, overall compatibility between

Taiyin couples is merely average.

The Taiyin-Shaoyin combination is the perfect recipe for either harmony or discord. Taiyins display a deep understanding of life and a magnanimous personality, whereas Shaoyins have a narrow focus and are meticulous and precise. Physically, Taiyins are strong and robust, with a larger frame, and Shaoyins are more fragile and tender, with generally smaller bodies. As such, these two complement each other well.

Taiyin-Shaoyin couples can often lead a very stable family life, as both partners are family-oriented. Because they are both Yin types, each tends to be passive and prefer the status quo over changes-even improvements or progress. Both are content to seek stability in the home. This desire to forge a strong family life generally motivates Taiyin and Shaoyin husbands to work hard to support their families, and Taiyin wives to impose any financial prudence necessary to maintain the household. Taiyins are not concerned with details, unlike Shaoyins, who are meticulous. This Shaoyin feature can compensate for the Taiyin weakness in such matters.
There are, however, a variety of ways in which this combination is not complementary. Laid-back Taiyins may not appreciate their Shaoyin partners’ efforts to attend to details left undone, but rather may view this behavior in a negative light and complain about their nagging, meddling partners. Also, the Taiyin’s love of domesticity may manifest not as a pride in the home, but rather as a lazy desire to remain housebound. A Taiyin individual may be perfectly content to stay home all day, surrounded by dirty dishes and piles of undone laundry, a situation that would unnerve his or her Shaoyin partner. Shaoyin women can be nit-picky or sulky, complaining that their Taiyin husbands are not sufficiently cheerful in social situations. If a Shaoyin wife gives in to her inclination to complain about every minor household matter as well, she may try the patience of even a Taiyin husband. In order to avoid these pitfalls, both partners must resist their innate tendencies. Shaoyins must exercise restraint over their tendency to be petty and critical, and Taiyins must avoid turning obstinate and lazy, as any one of these behaviors will close the door to communication and intimacy.

Taiyins can be likened to mountains, great accumulations of earth. Like mountains, Taiyins are physically massive; in fact, they are the most massive of the four constitutions. This mass serves as surplus energy for the Taiyins; it is their reserve gas tank, or the extra oil in their lamp. This surplus allows them to outlast others in work, and prevents them from quitting a job until it is complete. Furthermore, it gives them the capacity to take on jobs that most would consider boring, simple, repetitious, or tedious. Like mountains sitting immobile through the changing storms of time, Taiyins have the capacity to weather setbacks and distractions. The one thing that Taiyins find intolerable is work involving a great deal of detail; like mountains, they were meant for grandiosity, not minutiae. Like mountains weighing heavily into the earth, Taiyins bring their full weight to bear upon their chosen tasks. In this, they are similar to Taiyangs. Yet, whereas Taiyangs attack problems with the swiftness and ferocity of the wind, Taiyins tend to attack them with the persistence and patience of mountains. They move slowly, like mountains evolving over eons, pacing themselves whenever they work. They will skip meals and go overtime, double-overtime, or even all night if necessary, to get the job done. Furthermore, they take their work home and focus on it late into the night, and even work on weekends and holidays. They constantly think about their work, often sacrificing their personal or domestic lives to their professional careers. Even their social lives are not purely social. They will frequently go out to dinners, drinking engagements, parties, games of golf, and so on just to meet with business associates and potential clients. In these dealings, they get help from their constitutionally strong physique, which can tolerate large amounts of food and drink. When faced with serious obstacles or hostile environments, Taiyins will remain as steadfast and unperturbed as a mountain. They will not give up when things go counter to plan. Even if they fail on several occasions, they will come back and continue trying until they succeed. Huge financial losses or a smeared reputation will not stop them. Also, unlike Shaoyangs or Shaoyins, they will not show loss, discouragement, or despair on their faces when confronted with failure. They will remain as calm as the face of a white-capped mountain.

Taiyins show good leadership qualities, and often find success at the top of the business or political ladder. They actually look like leaders, possessing the natural dignity of great mountains. Furthermore, like the wide foundations of solid mountains, Taiyins have the broad-mindedness required of true leaders. This is evident both in their professional disposition (the drive to learn all they can about their work), as well as their strong interpersonal and social skills, through which they build and maintain support.

If mountains are steadfast and eternal, then they are also inertial, or even immobile. Taiyins, like mountains, may suffer from being too lazy or slow, with an innate tendency towards procrastination and fixation. Sometimes this laziness shows itself in the Taiyin’s lackluster efforts to earn a living. This inertial quality makes any job requiring outgoing or adventurous endeavors unsuitable for Taiyins. Also, jobs that require quick and timely responses, dependent upon up-to-the-minute information or communication, are probably unsuitable for the lumbering, slumbering Taiyins.

Mountains are of the earth, which helps to explain the Taiyin’s often excessive love of material (earthly) wealth. Taiyins ultimately desire that which is tangible, and of practical or profitable value. In fact, for Taiyins, all things are ultimately measured by these criteria. In a Taiyin’s eyes, things are important only if they can be linked to some sort of profit. What’s more, to hold their attention, the profit must be big, whether it is money, fame, power, or position. Just as mountains will not concern themselves over molehills, so too will Taiyins ignore ventures resulting in meager benefits.

By their very nature, mountains accumulate mass and earth into themselves. If they did not, and they dispersed the mass that they contained then they would flatten out, and no longer be mountains. In the same manner, Taiyins have a greedy, accumulative tendency. They tend to concern themselves only with gathering money, power, and profit for themselves, and will rarely sacrifice time, energy, or effort for the benefit of others. Taiyins tend to overrate themselves, like mountains, each silently claiming to be the top of the world. From this vantage point, they believe that they can accurately see the entire expanse of the universe, thus they eel their opinions represent the absolute truth. This being the case, Taiyins ill refuse to compromise or budge an inch once they make up their minds. The struggles of others to persuade Taiyins otherwise after they have resolved themselves can resemble the struggles of ants trying to push a mountain out of the way.

Although Taiyins usually have the most broadminded perspective of the four constitutions, when they are unbalanced, they can be obstinate and biased. It is in these instances that their mountain-like stubbornness is particularly damaging.

Although Taiyins are excellent workers, with the persistence and patience to handle most tasks that come their way, they enjoy neither minute, detailed tasks involving a great deal of thinking, nor tasks requiring a great deal of adaptability and flexibility. Furthermore, Taiyins tend to have a grandiose vision of their lives and their possibilities. Thus, they will only commit themselves to those tasks that eventually allow them to realize success on a grand scale. Taiyins will work persistently in almost any field, but only if it furthers their ambition to get to the top positions, where they seem to belong. They often aspire to be politicians, corporate leaders, or high-ranking officers in the armed forces. As Taiyins have a grand vision of the world, they also succeed in careers requiring the capacity to see the big picture. They make excellent authors, historians, and philosophers. They are better at syncretistic thought. In other words, they are better at thinking in terms of breadth rather than depth. This is not to say that Taiyins are incapable of profound thought or penetrating insight; however, it is to say that such depth is not primary, and is usually the result of seeing the big picture and putting things in perspective. Taiyins would enjoy careers requiring a worldly sense of culture; they could serve as critics, for example, whether it be of society, or films, or food. Again, though, it is their breadth of experience, rather than their discriminating taste, that supports hem in such endeavors.