Definition - What does Taiso mean?
Taiso is a Japanese word that means "exercises" or "calisthenics." The word itself comes from the Japanese, tai, meaning “body,” and so, meaning “hardening,” and, thus, can be translated as a generic Japanese term for body conditioning.
Taiso can also refer to the scheduled exercise period that is held in many Zen temples in which Zen yoga is practiced. In this case, an additional benefit of taiso is to prepare the body for sitting in meditation for long periods of time.
Yogapedia explains Taiso
Taiso, when held in a temple setting, will often focus on Zen yoga practices such as stretches and conscious relaxation, especially of the part of the body that are affected by long periods of sitting in meditation. They may also aim to release energy in the meridian lines of the body and incorporate breathing into the hara. Taiso, in this setting, tends to emphasise developing mindfulness in movement, considering an enhanced awareness of the body as one way to get closer to attaining awakening.
Temple taiso can be held as early as 4 a.m. for anything from 20 minutes up to an hour or more. This helps to prepare the body and mind for the day ahead. The practices themselves vary according to the school of thought and the teacher. Finally, taiso may be longer or more regular during a retreat period.