Calisthenics vs. Yoga

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Calisthenics Vs. Yoga, that is the question. Today bodyweight exercises have made a major comeback if you haven’t noticed. Gyms are closed and home gym equipment is on backorder. Nor is it easy to purchase equipment online and have them shipped to homes. Moreso, not everyone has a garage or an extra space enough to set up a home gym.

Today, Youtube and mobile fitness apps are your new trainer.  So you might be wondering how these two differ from each other and whether or not they are effective substitutes for your strength- and muscle-building workouts. Well, you’ve come to the right place because we answer those questions – and more – in this article.

Defining the terms for Calisthenics and Yoga

Before we proceed, let’s define the terms for you to understand this article.

Bodyweight exercises

As the name suggests, these exercises only make use of a person’s body weight to stretch and apply resistance to the muscles. No equipment or apparatus is required. With this definition, you can technically classify calisthenics and yoga under the same category. But, they have major differences and we discuss more of that later.


Merriam Webster defines calisthenics as systematic rhythmic bodily exercises performed usually without apparatus. Think of your squats, burpees, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, and planks – those are all examples of bodyweight exercises. Though no equipment is technically required, some people choose to use dip bars, parallettes, and resistance bands to make their workouts more difficult.


If you have never heard of Yoga, the calisthenics definition above might appear similar to the Yoga definition to the untrained. The main difference is that yoga works on our body, mind, and spirit. It involves more than just exercising your muscles. Yoga often involves the practice of proper breathing, meditation, and grounding. An image speaks a thousand words, see the difference?

calisthenics vs. yoga comparison

Calisthenics is more of an external exercise with little focus on your internal state. While both will physically work you, yoga works on both the external and internal aspects of your body. The goal is to feel relaxed after a yoga practice vs. calisthenics achievement of fitness.

Categorizing the differences between calisthenics and yoga

Now that we have defined the common terms, let’s dive into the comparisons and differences for the different goals that you might be trying to achieve.

On Muscle Development

If you have been mostly training with equipment, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen and experienced how it gives you the ripped body you want in a shorter time. This is the reason why most people are hesitant to shift to bodyweight training. Without the use of equipment and machines, it can actually take a bit longer to build strength and muscles. They may take time, but bodyweight training still does the job.

Calisthenics works on complex and compound muscle development. In simpler words, it targets muscles through in-depth and thorough exercises. With calisthenics, your body is your barbell – or even your entire gym! Though no equipment is used, calisthenics workouts are designed so that your muscles still go through high levels of tension and resistance. And aside from strength and muscle building, it also improves your coordination, movement control, and mobility.

When executed properly, certain poses in yoga can torch your core, target muscle groups, and build strength. In fact, consistent yoga practice can both build muscle and lengthen the tone of your body. There are different variations of yoga but if you want to work on muscle building, go for flows that require longer breaths per pose. Because when you hold a certain pose, your body weight causes tension in your muscle fibers. No matter what exercise type you follow, applying high levels of tension to your muscles is needed to build more muscles and strength.

On Complexity

So which is more difficult: Calisthenics or Yoga?

At some point in your life, you have most likely already done calisthenics workouts. Push-ups, squats, and sit-ups are just some of the most common examples. Generally, calisthenics exercises are easier to follow. One, because they are very familiar. And two, because you control the number of reps and sets you make. So many Youtube fitness channels have gained massive popularity recently. Everybody is stuck at home and looking for ways to stay fit and beat boredom. So, people turned to these easy-to-follow and beginner-friendly home workout videos which are heavily composed of calisthenics workouts. Of course, variations for advanced fitness enthusiasts are available. But if you’re looking for something easy to follow, go for calisthenics.

Yoga, on the other hand, is more complex because aside from strength, a lot of yoga poses also require balance and flexibility. Plus, yoga uses Sanskrit – a classical Indian language – to define practices and poses. With calisthenics, the coach can just say do 10 push-ups and you’ll know what to do. That’s not necessarily true for yoga. You will need to observe how the teacher does it first before you can do chaturanga on your own. So generally, yoga is the more complex workout type for beginners.

Can you do calisthenics and yoga simultaneously?

Yes! It is actually good to incorporate multiple disciplines into your exercise routine. Some people do yoga before or after bodyweight training mainly to stretch and/or relax. Others also incorporate calisthenics in their yoga practice. If you’re curious on how to do this, here are some examples:

Lunges in Warrior Pose

Warrior Pose

In warrior pose, you have to bend to lunge one knee forward while your other leg is extended backward and both arms raised sidewards palms facing down. Incorporate lunges by slowly bending your extended leg and then straightening it again. Do this while keeping the rest of your body as stable as you can. Repeat at least five times for each side.

Sit-ups in Navasana


Navasana also called the Boat Pose, is an excellent core workout. Now pair this pose up with sit-ups and you have an exercise that will fire up your core.

To do Navasana, sit on the floor with your legs extending straight in front of you. Then slowly raise both legs upwards until they are about 45 to 50 degrees above the floor. Make sure to straighten your knees as much as you can and raise your toes until they are slightly above your eye level. Lastly, raise your arms alongside your legs and parallel to each other and hold your pose.

Now, go from Navasana to the canoe yoga pose to execute the sit-ups. To do the canoe pose, lower your back and legs at the same time. Go as low as you can without touching the floor. Your hands should remain on your sides while you hold your pose.

After you do the canoe pose, go back to Navasana, then to canoe again. Do this for at least five times.

The conclusion to Calisthenics Vs.Yoga

Hopefully, you now understand some of the fundamental differences between calisthenics and yoga. While it may sound strange (even to us) to call this Calisthenics “vs.” Yoga as they are really two different but complementary practices. If you ask me, which is “better”, I would say neither, depending on where you are at in life it might be better to do one or the other or both!

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