Money is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of yoga, but financial concerns–from spending, savings habits, to the choices we make at the cash register–afford practitioners a powerful opportunity to apply yogic teachings. Whether splurging on a new pair of boots or weighing investment options, yoga practitioners can leverage the teachings of yoga to bring yogic awareness and mindfulness to spending money. At times just the simple act of pausing and reflecting before spending can expand our perspective on why we are spending money and whether we should.
Financial advisor Darius Gagne points out that the act of surrendering can be as powerful to our yoga practice as to our financial endeavors.
“What I try to teach (clients) is to focus on what you can control, accept what you can’t control and have the wisdom to know the difference,” says Gagne, a CIO at ABACUS Wealth Partners.
A longtime yogi, Gagne provides tips on some of the easiest ways to bring yogic awareness and mindfulness to spending money:
- Letting go: We are urged by our teachers to surrender control on the mat. In much the same way, we have no influence over the economy or whether the markets go up or down. Focus, instead, on the things you can control: saving money or investing in individual retirement plans to reduce your tax obligation, for instance.
- Save! Regardless of monthly income, almost everyone can save a small amount each month. Start small if you must and you might find that you will be increasing the amount you save.
- Discern between need and desire: Ask yourself tough questions. Are you shopping for things you might need and would improve your life or are you accumulating things you don’t need and may even be destructive? Invoke the yama of non-hoarding: aparigraha. Be rigorous in your scrutiny. Do you really need one more pair of shoes in your closet or is it the fickle ego talking?
- Make informed decisions: The yoga practice empowers the practitioner to make wise choices about diets, lifestyle and ethics. It can also influence the yogi to make personal choices about companies to invest in. The same inquiring mindset we take on the mat, we can apply to scoping out where we invest and spend our money. Remember: What works for others may not work for you.
- Become aware of patterns: We cultivate awareness and mindfulness of existing patterns in our yoga practice. In the process, we become aware of long-standing postural and mechanical tendencies. We can apply that awareness to our spending. Do you absolutely need that item or is it the ego talking? Can you truly afford it? Do you already have one? Ask yourself: Will this purchase make me happy? Is it true happiness or a superficial one? How long after you buy it will you pine for something else to make you happy?
Awareness is key to enacting change–on or off the mat. Once you’ve become aware of your spending habits and patterns, take action. Rather than spending all your earnings, can you stick to a 10-percent savings plan?
Remember that nowhere do the Yoga Sutras counsel the practitioner to refrain from spending. Most practitioners are “householders.” We practice yoga, but we live in the world. And whether we choose to live simply, or to as a result of our gifts and work, accumulate wealth, the yoga principles can guide us to make authentic choices for ourselves and to stay true to ourselves.
Yoga forces us to address all areas of life. The practice forces us to confront and deal with things we’ve swept under the rug or put off. To continue the yoga practice in a genuine way, yogis, sooner or later, confront and become mindful of destructive habits and ultimately, address those patterns.