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March 26, 2016

Stressing & Spending: Yogic Tips for Better Money Management.

Lena Bell/Unsplash

I have spent the majority of my life chasing the elusive and blurry concept of “more.”

Certain that peace would come with prosperity, I spent my 20s aggressively in pursuit of what I thought that would look like.

As an entrepreneur, I hustled to build my business and my fortune. I forsook friends for clients and viewed time as billable hours, seeing my home as an investment instead of a sanctuary and taking risks in a gamble for more abundance. My entire identity was directly chained to this illusion of success, and although in hindsight I can say I could have—or should have—been satisfied and able to enjoy the fruits of my labor, the temptation of “more” always promised that what I was seeking was still ahead and that serenity would come later.

And when the real estate market crashed, I lost it all, including my sense of self.

My former road to achievement was now blocked by the detritus of broken dreams and underemployment, and the wounds caused by the resultant depression made clawing my way back to the top of the money pile seem unlikely at best. I remained crumpled at the bottom of the heap, gazing longingly at the pinnacle of my past, for far too long before I grudgingly accepted that I’d have to find a new path to peace and began to make my way around the rubble.

Already so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t even recall its zip code, I used my newly found (and heavily resented) free time to take up yoga, joining a local studio’s karma program where I exchanged work hours for classes. I went from invoicing clients to cleaning toilets, from calculating investment potential to mopping sweat off of the floor.

And I was happy.

It turns out that despite their fundamental differences, my relationship with yoga revealed truths about my relationship with money. It makes sense in a way, since both are often advertised as the answer to a get-happy-quick scheme. As with all schemes, there’s nothing quick about real results, but yoga and financial well-being do have a lot in common.

Here are some tips for getting tangible results in both our yoga and financial management practices:

Be Present

The most obvious and seemingly easiest step is often the most difficult; making the decision to show up is the hard part. It’s tempting to start tomorrow, but it seems like there are an endless amount of tomorrows. Each step of practice brings us closer to the comfort that the familiarity of routine brings, so sit down for an honest inventory as soon as possible.

I began to make it a habit to reconcile my receipts at the end of every day. As I created a sense of accountability around my spending, each purchase benefitted from more careful consideration. Would I feel good about logging this $6 latte later? If I could choose between 200 cups of coffee or a vacation, which would I pick? Suddenly making coffee at home got a lot more enjoyable.

Set an Intention

In class we are often encouraged to dedicate our practice to a person or quality. When fatigue sets in, the allure of comfort can distract from the greater goal. When my muscles are trembling, I remember that the intention for my practice is strength and that collapsing would be out of integrity with what I want.

We should also set an intention for our financial futures. Are you seeking the simplicity of security? The freedom of flexibility? The peace that comes with empowerment? Success lies in making sure our actions line up with our intentions.

Fix Your Gaze

When I learned about Drishti, I was amazed that one simple act of focus unlocked better balance in poses like Tree, Dancer and Eagle. Setting my financial gaze brought similar results.

I had to figure out what I really wanted in life: what I was willing to make sacrifices to get. If you had one week to live without any limitations, how would you hope to spend it? Traveling? With family? At home?

Being clear and bold about our goals starts momentum. Get on TripAdvisor and plan the ultimate vacation, organize your future home on Pinterest, set a pie-in-the-sky savings account balance and root down, rise up and dismiss distractions. A financial destination is like a project pose — it takes a lot of effort, adjustment and discomfort but the sense of achievement lasts for far longer than the actual asana.

Use Props

As a beginner, it seemed like the “good” yogis didn’t need props—that the use of a tool was an admission of a lack of ability and that if I stumbled through, I’d figure it all out soon enough. The reality is that the “good” yogis couldn’t reach the ground without a block once upon a time either, and that seeking out help gave them a foundation that allowed for further expression.

My relationship with money actually changed in a tangible way when I began using You Need a Budget (YNAB) and its app. Every dollar is assigned a job, and each expense or goal has its own category. I can see at a glance that yes, I can afford unexpectedly needing new tires because eventually needing new tires is not actually unexpected—the program encourages me to account for future expenses by adding to those categories each month, so the money is already earmarked for the occasion. A similar outcome can be achieved by dividing cash into envelopes representing spending categories for a free, low-tech option.

The added bonus is that I no longer feel guilty about purchases, which eliminates the rush and regret of impulse spending.

Drop Judgment

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t let your first headstand at the wall live in the shadow of your neighbor’s middle-of-the-room handstand. Don’t let that time you fell on your face in Crow pose stop you from taking flight again. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, even yourself. We’re all where we need to be.

I spent a lot of time punishing myself for what I should have done differently and comparing my progress with that of those around me. Sure, my secondhand paid-for VW Jetta fills my heart with joy, but it’s hard not to admire the Mercedes parked beside it.

Then I remember that I wouldn’t have this mindset, or even the time to enjoy it, without my massive money setback and that without it, I’d still be on the quest for “more.” Sometimes failure is actually a favor.

Practice Savasana

At the end of every class and at the end of every day, there’s an opportunity to be still, tune into our physical and emotional selves, and appreciate where we are.

Recognize your effort. Forgive the times you fell.

Be curious.

Keep practicing.

It turns out that it’s neither money nor yoga that results in prosperity—it’s the ability to breathe regardless of circumstances; it’s the balance, flexibility and commitment to improvement. With both yoga and money, the true path to peace was in accepting where I was while knowing where I wanted to be, and creating the space to get there.

 

 

 

 

Author: Ashley McCann

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Lena Bell/Unsplash 

Ashley McCann

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