Externally viewed, calisthenics and yoga couldn’t appear more different: one is an explosive barrage of power, while the other is a series of static poses. Look under the hood however, and they will appear more like mirror images.
Both employ predominantly compound exercises, making use of a large number of muscles at the same time. The philosophy of advancement by using nothing (or almost nothing) but your body forms the core of both approaches. They build power and balance, although in different proportion and through different means. Finally, both yoga and calisthenics are current incarnations of ancient training methods.
In essence, calisthenics and yoga aim to take you to the same destination, but via different roads. Take the planche for instance—a skill that both approaches share. A practitioner of calisthenics would build their strength to a point, then start working on balance until they can pull off the planche. Someone starting from yoga on the other hand, would master proper balance, then get to working on their strength in order to tackle the planche. Same destination, mirrored approaches.
Thinking one step ahead is never a bad thing. Given that yoga starts at a balance point we only start touching at the mid-to-advanced calisthenics level, it stands to reason that incorporating it into one’s workout schedule early on could only have benefits further down the line. Minimize your weaknesses in time, and you will learn that your strengths will start to shine much sooner than expected.
Today we will go over some generally useful yoga poses for you calisthenics enthusiasts. This will be a to-the-point guide; nothing fancy. For those wanting to dig deeper into yoga, we recommend visiting a dedicated site or purchasing a comprehensive guide. If you are only interested in the practical side of things however, keep reading!
The Three Warrior Poses—and What They Can Do For You
These poses (Warrior I-III, or Virabhadrasana poses one to three—if you want to extend your training all the way up to your tongue) are lunge-like stances you should hold. Their benefits are many, and if you’re looking for a way to open your mind to alternative ways of exercising, these are a great place to start.
Before we start tackling the Warrior poses however, we will need to go into the Tadasana, or the Mountain pose. This is in essence a glorified standing position, but let’s roll with it. To assume it the yoga way, go over the following steps:
- From your regular standing position, either bring your feet together or keep them at a hip’s worth of distance from each other.
- Straighten your legs while not fully locking your knees. Tighten your thigh muscles, but not to the point where it becomes exhausting.
- Inhale deeply and extend your spine, standing as tall as you can.
- Exhale, pointing your shoulders down and back with your arms pointing down.
- Inhale and exhale once more, raising and lowering your shoulders until your arms run parallel to your body.
- You are now in the Mountain position. Keep breathing, and either hold it for 4-8 breaths, or use it as a starting point for other poses.
Warrior I is a pose that strengthens your legs, core, and hamstrings. It also helps immensely with leg coordination and rotating movements. To assume it, do the following:
- From the Mountain pose, step back with your right leg in a sort of backward lunge.
- Turn your right heel down, and angle your foot at 45 degrees.
- Bend your left (forward) knee at 90 degrees—or as close as you can.
- Extend both your arms upward.
- Keep breathing. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Once done, return to the mountain pose before assuming Warrior I again, this time mirrored.
Warrior II is an all-rounder pose that hits your shoulders, arms, core, legs, and pretty much everything else you can think of. Like most things in yoga, it may look goofy, but try holding it and you’ll see that smirk evaporate in no time!
- From the Mountain pose, do a backwards lunge like you would when starting Warrior I.
- While keeping your front foot pointed forward, position your back foot at a 90 degree to it. Both heels should be lined up. Make certain to remain stable; your back foot is crucial.
- As you inhale, raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor while your palms remain downturned.
- Lunge deeper toward your forward knee until it is bent at a 90 degree angle. Make certain that it isn’t turning to one of your sides.
- Turn your pelvis slightly toward your back leg, but not so much that it becomes uncomfortable.
- Stay in the position for 5-10 breaths before returning to the Mountain pose and doing it over, mirrored.
Unless you’ve done yoga before, Warrior III will hit you where you’re weakest. This pose aims to improve your overall balance and stability, and is particularly intense on your core and glutes.
- From the Mountain pose (this time make certain to keep your feet a hip’s worth of distance from each other), spread your toes and dig them into your mat—or whatever you exercise on.
- Inhale while raising both arms up toward the ceiling.
- As you exhale, slowly raise your right leg backward while leaning forward with your torso and arms for balance. This is touchy, so here’s a video guide. Done properly, you should end up in a position resembling the letter T.
- Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths. Remember to keep the neck relaxed, and not in an artificial-feeling position.
- End the pose by lowering the leg and compensating with your torso. Repeat for the other side.
Unless you’re looking for cardio or muscular hypertrophy, these three poses will cover most of your weaknesses. Combining them with explosive workouts however, will make whole-body, advanced moves such as the planche, levers, rings skills and the like, significantly easier in the long run.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.