Yoga and money is a big juicy multi-dimensional topic with endless doorways in and twists to take. Most often when you come across an article on yoga and money it will cover the topic from one of two directions:
Firstly, and more traditionally, it will cover ethics and money - typically the application of the ethical guidelines of the Yoga Sutras.
Secondly, but increasingly so with the growth of yoga, it will cover the business of yoga. Issues such as the emergence of big branded studio chains, the commercialisation of "yoga", or how to make a reasonable living as a yoga teacher.
This article takes a different direction and looks at the potential of our practice of yoga to change our relationship with money - and for the better.
Yoga practice has the potential to radically transform our relationships: our relationships with ourselves, with those near and dear to us, and with the world around us. And unless we live a remote off-grid self-sufficient life we all have some kind of relationship with money, essentially by necessity. For a long time that necessity has been covered with layer upon layer of deeply engrained cultural programming. This has affected us in three ways in particular:
- We have become deeply attached to money; both for providing our basic needs and for all the glittering trinkets that money can buy
- Our lack, or surplus of money has wormed its way into our identity; material stuff and economic worth plays a part in defining who we think we are
- We direct a lot of our attention towards money; where we direct our attention our love flows
So let’s look at how our yoga practice impacts these three aspects of our relationship with money.
Yoga practice mandates a dedication to our practice and a non-attachment to the fruits of that practice
Key to our yoga practice is not so much what we do but how we do it. It is our inner approach to yoga, or the inner posture we assume, that makes what we do a practice of yoga. One way of framing this inner approach is laid out in the Yoga Sutras as Kriya Yoga. A central part of this is tapah, also written as Tapas. Tapah is the discipline of practice, and purification through it. Or, taking action without desire for outcomes.
Tapah means that each time we roll out our mat we engage with practice for its own sake, we practise simply for the work and joy of it. Over time we grow our ability to engage fully in each moment without attachment to the results of our practice.
This sounds simple but is not easy, our entanglement with attachment runs deep and loosening from this takes time. However, the beautiful thing is that as we learn - really learn - to let go of attachment in our practice on our mats, this bubbles out and over into our lives as a whole. This is a process of transformation that starts on the inside and that softens and shifts who we think we are.
2. A truer sense of identity and realignment
Yoga practice brings subtle but real shifts in our identity. In particular a loosening from the material stuff we tend to acquire and identify with to define ourselves as individuals
The changes that practice bring are subtle - they may not be easy to specify or verbalise at first. However, over time they do kick in and once they kick in they are real and profound. For many, this means that we start to place less emphasis on money and material wealth in how we think of ourselves and others. We become less likely to fall for the calls of commerce; less likely to buy into the idea that we really need the latest this or that to define ourselves as individuals.
This is real and tangible Hatha yoga at work: our practice on our mats realigns our physical bodies and energetic systems and our mind and behaviours follow. Or in other words if we change our physiology we change who we are. Our practice shifts us in ways that are good for us and, in the case of money, also ultimately good for our communities and our planet. Internally one of the more tangible things we may start to notice is that these shifts bring space and lightness into our being.
- Read more about this realignment in Our Common Purpose - why do we practise yoga?
3. Freedom to direct our attention
Yoga practice softens and brings space, space to get curious, to look and to enquire, and to direct our attention away from the habitual
This space, created by loosening from attachments and shifts in identity, brings freedom. A very valuable sort of freedom and one that money cannot buy: the freedom to direct our attention away from what normally grabs it and towards something new. To start asking questions about things we took for granted. To refocus on what, upon reflection, is really important rather than on what we have been programmed to focus on. As we start to direct our attention, our love, with this freedom from a place of authenticity we move away from the superficial ladder of attainment and attachment to trinkets into the depth of who we are.
EkhartYoga members can watch a more detailed exploration of the topic in this class, where the concepts of yoga and morals and money as Maya are also covered.
For anyone who is interested in our inner approach to yoga and how this empowers us on and off our mats, David has published a book Radically Simple Yoga: For Now. This is an accessible guide to the philosophy and practices of yoga www.radicallysimpleyoga.com