5 Things Yoga Can Teach You About Money
By Sarah Winfrey
Whether or not yoga is your thing, you're probably familiar with it. The practice of yoga has become popular enough that most people know how yoga is done and how to do the basic poses.
What you may not know is that you can learn a lot about life in general while holding a pose like downward dog or happy baby. When you practice, you study not only the yogic postures, but also things like balance, flexibility, and mindfulness. And you can apply all of these concepts outside of the studio, too.
Here's how I've come to apply things I've learned from yoga to my personal financial life. I hope these ideas help you think about your money a little differently, maybe with a little more Zen! (See also: 4 Zen Concepts That'll Improve Your Finances)
1. Balance Is Central
My favorite yoga teacher will tell us to center ourselves not just over the left foot, but over the toes, or the heel. Slowly, I've come to realize that how I balance myself changes the posture subtly, often bringing in more of a stretch or making it more challenging.
Just as how you balance is key in the yoga studio, it's helpful when you're thinking about money, too. Most of us want more money, but what if we were to focus somewhere else? For instance, is there enough to pay the bills? Are we spending more thoughtfully than we did last year? And what would making more money actually add to our lives?
These questions, and more, can help us think in a more balanced way about our money. This, in turn, will free us to change spending or saving habits that might be harming us.
2. Proper Preparation Is Key
A good yoga teacher will prepare you for what is coming, both in the current class and in the future. There's a reason that harder poses often come near the end of a yoga class — it's because you wouldn't be ready for them before that. You have to open your hips, your hamstrings, your shoulders, and whatever else is needed for that final, challenging pose of the flow. If you don't prepare, you'll hurt yourself and hamper your ability to progress in the long term.
Money works the same way. What are your long-term financial goals? And your short-term goals? These aren't just going to happen. They require planning and preparation ahead of time. Just like in yoga, you need to do specific things now so you can reach your goals later. Want to travel around the world? Start saving. Need a specific kind of of mortgage, come spring? Look at starting the application now. Proper planning will help ensure your long-term financial health, just like a proper flow will help ensure that you stay healthy enough to continue practicing yoga.
3. Flexibility Is Crucial
Most people who practice regularly see an increase in their flexibility. And people like me — who just thought they weren't flexible at all — begin to see how this rise in flexibility influences their entire lives.
Similarly, the more flexible you can be with your money, the better prepared you'll be financially. Financial flexibility has to do with your ability to change how you spend based on your current circumstances. If you empty your emergency fund because your car breaks down, can you flex for a few months until the fund is replenished? And if you realize you need more than you'd anticipated for a down payment, can you find the funds and flex on a few things until you've made up the difference?
Financial flexibility pertains to small things, like how much coffee you buy and how often you dine out. But it also pertains to bigger things, like when you decide to buy a house, how you structure your investments, and more. Just as flexibility and strength are tied in yoga, they often come together financially, too. And you want your money to be as strong as it can be.
4. Self-Care Is Always Worth It
People start yoga for all different sorts of reasons, but they often continue because of self-care. Doing yoga feels good. It makes your body feel better, even alleviating long-term aches and pains. And it's often meditative, offering quiet and space that most of us don't have in our daily lives. So, in learning yoga, we often stumble onto self-care, too.
Learning self-care through yoga often helps people take better care of themselves financially. This can mean spending money on things — even little things — that make you feel good. A sweet smelling candle, a good book, or a cup of coffee can all be acts of self-care. It can also mean using more discretion about how you spend your money, so that you aren't always worrying about debt, overdraft fees, and how to pay the bills. Once people get started on a path to self-care, it often spills into their entire lives.
5. Mindfulness Will Help You Reach Your Goals
Mindfulness means staying aware in the present, and is often stressed in the yoga studio. Living in the now, paying attention to how your body is moving, what you need to do, and how to stay in a pose, can all help you learn to remain present — even when so many things pressure you to think about them, instead.
More than anything else, mindfulness is a path to self-mastery. It teaches us to choose where we focus, rather than letting the mind run willy nilly wherever it wants. And when we learn to focus in yoga, we learn a skill that can help us financially, too.
Being mindful — and therefore a master of ourselves — can help us stick to a budget. It can help us save up for something we really want. It can help us get through a frugal season without taking on debt. And it can even help us buy Christmas presents, because it will help us focus on the recipient and what they want, rather on everything we might like to buy for them. In the end, being mindful will help us save more, invest better, and be happier with what we have.
When we are open, willing learners, yoga can improve not only our physical health, but our financial health as well.