“Tell the truth. Do no harm”. The ethical underpinnings of yoga teach us how to be good human beings. Even if you’re not that into yoga, you still probably know that these are basic core values recognized around the world as the traits of a “good person”.
So where do the teachings of yoga say anything about money?
It’s a connection that very few people make, even though yoga is practiced by roughly 20-million people in this country alone. The number of Americans practicing yoga has grown by over 50-percent in recent years, and 90% of Americans have heard of yoga while roughly a third have tried it. And in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s very much a part of 21st-century culture — a post of yourself striking the ‘natarajasana’ pose in front of a beach sunset is practically a requirement if you’re a girl on Instagram, for example.
Yet few truly understand the impact it can have on their everyday live, including finances. Although, the shark tank types have figured out how to cash in on this enormous movement. We now have the very modern concepts of yoga startups, yoga for CEO’s, and “corporate mindfulness programs”. And even though there’s yoga for dogs (yes, “doga yoga”), yoga for babies, yoga with goats and yoga for the power set (CorePower Yoga for upscale customers coming to a wealthy suburb or posh downtown area near you); there’s not much going on in the area of personal finance.
That is, nobody seems to be talking about applying yogic principles to the very important matter of how to spend (and save) your money. Yet to me, discipline in personal money matters is a natural segue from the core values of yoga and what it teaches me about mindfulness.
How Mindfulness in Yoga Leads to Mindful Spending
A little background: striking the right balance between mindfulness and the realities of living in the 21st century doesn’t come easy. It can seem like every encounter you have has a powerful financial dimension.
We go for coffee and there’s a choice to make — is paying $5 for a flat white so you have a place to sit and chat really a sustainable habit? Is that extra $15 per month for your Netflix subscription just so you can watch the final season of Schitt’s Creek really necessary? Do $200 jeans look better than $70 jeans? Are you really making use of that Audible subscription? The things we want for our lives — J Brand Jeans (Citizens of Humanity, perhaps?), the lure of high-quality audio books we never have time to listen to, the feeling of being part of something vital and important when you spend time at Starbucks — do all of these things add up to happiness, fulfillment, mindfulness? When it feels like everyone’s participating in these high-dollar-value events, opting out of them can feel like you’re being anti-social or you’re missing out and losing touch with the pulse of modern living.
On the other hand, who wants to live like an authentic yogi? We’d all save a lot of money living a pared-down lifestyle but is that living? Wanting to look good in jeans shouldn’t make you feel spiritually inferior. Each person has their own vision of the ideal lifestyle, and that’s where yoga comes in to help us all get closer to that ideal. I’m not talking about the wonderful, bendy way your muscles feel when you practice yoga (although that’s a huge lifestyle enhancement I hear). I’m actually talking about the more spiritual, self-actualization parts of yoga practice, where you learn to be in the moment in whatever you’re doing.
The mindfulness that yoga imparts on our behavior can be channeled to help us make the right decisions about spending our money. It’s a mindfulness that’s with us every moment, reminding us of our larger goals in life, keeping us connected to our goals so that we’re able to stay focused on them even while making purchasing decisions. Even while standing in line at Starbucks or browsing the racks at J. Crew. Making sound choices requires a balanced, focused mind. See the connection?
Sound Money Management Habits Start From Within
I’ll leave you with a tiny cheat sheet. Consider it a Cliff’s Notes version of how you can stay mindful during the week when you’re making all your spending choices.
- Flexibility. Yoga helps your body become more flexible. Keep your mind flexible, too, as you spend your money. Need to save up for a down payment on a car or a house? You can start by practicing flexibility with the number of times you dine out each week, for example.
- Balance. Tree pose is all about balance, as is most of yoga practice. Financially speaking, you have to balance your spending to make sure you can cover your bills, fund your emergency account, and start saving for retirement. Then there’s the life-work balance we all try so hard to achieve. Will working overtime really enhance your life and make it better or are you just working harder so you can buy more things?
- Mindfulness. Staying aware of the present moment is a big deal in yoga. Paying attention to your body, removing outside influences, and focusing hard to strike a pose are a state of mind that can help you focus better while making decisions, too. It could help you stick to a budget.
- Healing. Yoga is about self-care, peace, self-reflection, and meditation…in other words, all the things that make us feel centered. Part of taking care of yourself means eliminating things that cause you stress: debt, too many bills, and not enough financial cushion (aka savings).
From the renewed sense of focus to the reinforcement of values that we hold dearest to our inner selves, yoga brings all-purpose benefits that make their presence known in all areas of our lives — if we let them. The first step is knowing that you can bring those benefits with you even after leaving the distraction-free zone of your yoga studio. Keeping a yoga-like mindfulness with you throughout your day will help you to remain focused on personal goals and your everyday financial decisions.