The Yoga of Money: Take Wisdom from the Mat to Your Finances

When you approach money with the same consciousness you bring to your yoga practice, your financial life can offer profound personal insight and wisdom.
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When you approach money with the same consciousness you bring to your yoga practice, your financial life can offer profound personal insight and wisdom.
the yoga of money, money, foreign currency, travel, ganesh

Our relationship with our finances can spark attachment, avoidance, envy, fear, and more. But when you approach money with the same consciousness you bring to your yoga practice, your financial life can offer profound personal insight and wisdom.

Six years ago, Sadie Nardini was trekking around New York City teaching more than a dozen group yoga classes a week, many of which were donation based. When students started asking her about her rate for private classes, she wanted to say “$125”—but instead, “$50” came out of her mouth. “I avoided finances like I avoided Bound Triangle [Pose],” says Nardini.

Then, about a year later, she had a realization. “Asana is powerful—though not always comfortable,” she says. “Letting the tough stuff emerge is where you get your chance to realign with who you really are.” Nardini knew it was time to apply the same principle to her angst around money. So, she curled up in her favorite café with a large chai and a journal and started writing her “story” around finances—noting, for example, that even as a child she had never felt capable of handling money because her father always had control over the family’s accounts. As she wrote, she also recalled how, as she began her yoga career, she didn’t feel truly worthy of making a good living doing what she loved. “I couldn’t charge as much as others told me I was worth because, deep down, I struggled with self-esteem,” she says.

“That day, I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend my life stuck in my old story,” says Nardini. She started getting more mindful about how she thought about money and how she was expending her energy. She became much more strategic about when and where she taught. She also started charging $125 for privates. As for all of the discomfort that surfaced after making these shifts? She breathed into it—just like she did when she clasped her arms around her front leg in Baddha Trikonasana (Bound Triangle Pose).

It worked. In addition to charging a more realistic price for those private classes, Nardini wrote a book. She started teaching online yoga classes sold through powhow.com and also started running at-home teacher trainings that she sells through udemy.com. Nardini made $275,000 last year and says she still offers plenty of donation-based classes online.

See also3 Tips for Better Time Management + Focus

Nardini took a crucial step when it comes to developing a healthier, more balanced relationship with money, according to Brent Kessel, a dedicated yogi and meditator who co-founded Abacus Wealth Partners, one of the nation’s top sustainable investing and financial planning firms, and author of the book It’s Not About the Money. She brought her awareness to her finances and set an intention to change, Kessel says.

“So many people blame money for most of the ills of the world, and avoid looking at their own relationship with their finances, kind of like we avoid the asanas we find most challenging,” Kessel says. “Yet money has the power to be a profound spiritual teacher—if we are willing to engage it with the same consciousness and intention as we do our traditional spiritual practices.”

How can something as uninspiring as a credit-card statement or investment report be as impactful as a great yoga teacher? For starters, they can reveal some of our patterns, says Kessel. Just as your beloved yoga teacher might continually remind you that you’re not externally rotating your upper arms in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), facing your $200-a-month green juice habit or your aversion to spending despite having plenty of savings can help you spot financial habits that aren’t serving you, he says. “I think everyone behaves in a way they believe will make them happy and prevent suffering, which is innocent and even noble,” says Kessel. “But it’s only when we question why we’re behaving that way and what kind of pain we’re hoping to avoid that we get a different result.”

Yogis are in a unique position to do this kind of internal digging around money issues. “Those of us who practice yoga are continuously increasing our capacity to endure uncomfortable physical feeling-states, and the same can be applied to emotional states,” explains Kessel. Remember that time you sat on your heels with your toes tucked under for several minutes? Your body did something your brain probably told you you couldn’t endure. “You can apply this same sort of fierceness when your old stories and patterns come up,” he says.

There’s also a very practical reason to stop overlooking or avoiding your finances, says Claire Kinsella Holtje, who worked as a Wall Street broker for 15 years before becoming a yoga and meditation teacher. (Today, she’s a money coach who runs workshops on how financial management and the chakras relate.)

“Getting more organized when it comes to your money is one of the most profound ways to get more organized on an inner level as well,” she says. It can quiet some of that citta vrtti—or mind chatter—that can pop up when you’re trying to meditate, and it can help you put an end to old, unhelpful mantras that you repeat unconsciously. “Think of it this way: As far as I know, nobody’s going to attain samadhi (or a state of union with the divine) if they’re worried about their finances,” says Holtje.

Of course, examining your patterns around money and then potentially changing them isn’t always easy. To help you do just that, take a look at Kessel’s eight specific money “personalities,” below. Naming the ones that resonate with you can help you identify your financial tendencies and habits, figure out where they’re distorted, and discover ways to find more balance. Once you pinpoint your patterns, you can start a meditation and asana practice to help you assess—and transform—your relationship with money.

See alsoHow to Stand Out as a Yoga Teacher

5 Smart Ways to Make a Yoga Living + Stay Financially Secure

If you’re a yoga teacher or studio owner trying to reconcile your love of yoga with good business practices, here’s inspiration from the pros to help you take your brand to the next level. (PS: These tips work for most any business.)

1. Connect to your personal “why.”

Identify the reason you became a yoga teacher in the first place, says Justin Michael Williams, a marketing expert and co-founder of the Business of Yoga workshops, who has advised Sianna Sherman, Ashley Turner, and many more successful teachers. The “why” is the soil from which your business model and all of your offerings should grow. “It can be tempting to do a million things that have monetary potential,” he says. But reflecting on the reason you became a yoga teacher can help you know which opportunities to say yes to, so you can work smarter, not harder.

2. Find your funnel.

You could teach 20 public classes a week and still not be able to pay your rent. Or, you could “funnel” your students into signature programs—things like workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings—that are higher priced, says Karen Mozes, Williams’ Business of Yoga co-founder. “This is the secret weapon for a teacher’s financial freedom.”

3. Make a list of comparable services.

Erika Veley, a former marketing executive and founder of Daily Bliss Yoga in Laguna Beach, California, understands how tough it can be to charge top dollar for your services. Her advice: Research the going rates for anyone offering similar services in your area, such as therapists and bodyworkers, then adjust your prices accordingly. This can ease some of the fear around asking for what you’re worth.

4. Set business goals.

Every successful business sets benchmarks, which are oftentimes financial, says Williams. How much do you need to make to break even or to see a profit? Then, do periodic check-ins and make adjustments if you’re not well on your way to meeting those goals.

5. Get paid up front.

It may sound trivial, but asking for payment before you provide your services—whether it’s a group class, private lesson, or retreat—is just a good practice, says Veley. “Odds are, people are going to walk out of class feeling seriously blissed out, and that’s when they’ll forget to pay,” she says.

NEXT: What's Your Money Type?

Teachers, face your money fears. Study the Business of Yoga with Justin Michael Williams and Karen Mozes at YJ LIVE! events or online.