I don’t know about you, but as an Iyengar Yoga practitioner, every time I see the weird distortions of yoga posture names—criss-cross applesauce or downward facing dog—I cringe. Some Indians, who know how to perfectly pronounce words in English, Latin and French, mock at others who can’t get the right accent and intonation of foreign language words, seem to be totally fine with not just mispronunciation of yoga postures like swastik asan or adho mukh svanasan, but with them being given totally new names. If calling a croissant a kekeda roti is silly, it is far sillier to distort names of asans that are a few thousand years old. Well, at least it feels silly and facile to some of us who are yoga purists.
But this was not meant to be a rant about what the postures are called by yoga wannabes, but about how yoga and financial fitness share the same lessons for our physical and financial fitness! I’ve found great synchronicity between my yoga practice and financial planning and I want to share some of these with you.
Yoga and investing are similar because just as yoga does not give you a gym body with sculpted pectorals but low flexibility, investing is not about being a high-energy dealer and speculator, jumping from one win to another. Yoga is about flexibility, mindfulness, movement and subtle understanding of the body that gradually goes towards strength and fitness, while pumping iron is about watching TV or listening to pulsating music while you mindlessly do the cardio routine on an expensive machine.
Investing is about long-term balance, understanding of your own needs and goals, financial strength and empowerment, while trading and speculation are about short-term wins.
An average person needs the strength and flexibility that yoga gives and the financial stability that investing, and not speculating, gives. We need more mindfulness when it comes to both health and wealth rather than a mindless rush for results.
Being regular is the key to yoga and financial fitness. When you begin doing yoga, the body feels stiff and inflexible. Try doing gaumukh asan after working on a desk and computer for years and you realize that you have a hump between your shoulders and you can no longer sit on the floor. But with regular practice, not only do the hands latch behind the back, they even move an inch or two away.
Money is the same. Most people get into a stalemate with the conversation inside their heads—I don’t have the money to save, I will do it another time and anyway it’s in the bank—and just don’t begin breaking the habit of procrastination and fear.
The mistake that early yoga students make—of trying to do a shirshasan and cracking their necks—is made by newbie investors who jump from saving deposits to crypto currencies. Just as a proper shirshasan needs various parts of the body to be in good shape—backs, upper body, shoulders that need to be worked on for months before the body swings up into a perfect asan, being financially fit needs plenty of things in place. For example, a good cash flow system that separates out your saving from spending, a good emergency fund, appropriate insurances of health and life, and then an understanding of risk and your own capacity for taking it. It is only then that you can target investing. All these lead to financial fitness.
Both yoga and financial fitness have a positive contagion on the rest of your life. Yoga teaches you to respect your body and not take it for granted. You begin to watch what you eat and drink, how hard you push it at work and travel. It gives you a balance in the other parts of your life. Financial fitness is similar. Once the money part of your life settles down into a definite plan, the security allows you peace of mind, which leads to less stress and better balance in life.
Just as a healthy body allows us to accomplish what we set out to do in life, financial fitness allows us the freedom to focus on the really important things we care about, rather than just worrying about income now and in the future.
On this International Yoga Day, as we celebrate physical fitness, let’s see the parallels with financial fitness and bring both our health and wealth in balance and understand what yoga maestro B.K.S. Iyengar meant when he said: “Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known ever existed.” Go for both health and wealth to experience this freedom.
Monika Halan is consulting editor at Mint and writes on household finance, policy and regulation