Setting a New Year’s intention to get your money habits in order? You’re not alone. This year, 65 percent of Americans are setting a resolution to save more, spend less, or pay down debt, according to Fidelity—not so surprising given the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economy, especially within the yoga community. If you’re hoping to manage your money more skillfully this year, there’s one place you can start: Your mat. After all, creating an abundance of spiritual wealth (not leggings) makes space for a financial mindset that aligns with yoga teachings.
In fact, yoga and personal finances have more in common than you think. Both involve building tapas, or discipline. Plus, the benefits depend on compounding, the principle that growth stems from routinely building on sustained investments—like meditating every morning or saving a piece of every paycheck.
It’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. After all, it may have taken years to cultivate the strength to hold Warrior II for 10 breaths. “Don’t underestimate the power of little-by-little becoming a lot,” says Anna Strahs Watts, a yoga teacher and Raymond James financial advisor. “You can reach your goal in the long-term by making small steps in the short-term.” For instance, dividing a big expense, like an Apple Watch, into achievable portions and committing to setting aside monthly payments to yourself allows you to enjoy your progress, she adds.
There isn’t one way to build a healthy relationship with your finances, but you can start with your mindset. “Embracing mindfulness allows us to let go of habits that are no longer serving us,” says Cleo Childress, yoga teacher and founder of Cleo Yoga Finance.
Learn How to Manage Your Money Mindfully Through Your Yoga Practice
Need some tips? Here, a series of asanas to fire up your financial goals—whether it’s paying off student loans or starting to invest—through your practice.
1. (Surya Namaskar) Sun Salutations for Getting Started and Gaining Clarity
Stand at the top of your mat with your eyes closed and palms pressed together in prayer. It’s time to set your intention. Want to grow your savings? Pay off a debt in six months? Getting specific about your financial goal is essential.
As you start your Sun Salutation practice, how do you feel? Perhaps during the first few rounds your joints feel stiff and you’re unfocused, but by the third or forth, your movements feel smooth, your breaths are lengthening, and you’re in flow. Take notice: “You forget that the first two minutes were hard,” says Strahs Watts. “As you warm up your body, your mind sinks into the intention you set.”
The warmup to your financial practice may take on a similar arc. You’ll begin by acknowledging where you are right now. Scrutinize your bank account and your financial statements—rent, car payments, student loans, credit card balances, utility bills, and investments, like your 401(k). Delaying this process can be a sign that you fear the story all these numbers will tell. Sure, seeing your true financial landscape in its entirety may be uncomfortable at first, but by embracing the yogic principles of satya (truth), you can approach your financial journey without false pretenses.
Then, build on what you already know by saving your receipts and noting pitfalls, like ordering spendy takeout. One trick: Most credit card websites filter by category (grocery, gas, merchandise) for a quick snapshot of where your money goes. Or consider using a free app, like PocketGuard, to see your cash flow. It works by connecting all your accounts, then uses an algorithm to incorporate recurring bills and income to tell you how much moolah is left over.
2. Utkatasana (Chair Pose) for Building a Strong Budget
Now that you’ve locked in your intentions, along with your income and expenses, it’s time to create a realistic budget that will help you tackle those goals. For the uninitiated, a budget lists all your money coming in, every expense going out, and what is left to save or spend. Without a budget, it’s easy for your bank account to tip into the red. Keep track using a Google spreadsheet, or sign up for an app like EveryDollar or Mint.
Think about Chair Pose, which calls for stability, strength, determination, and flexibility. In this posture, you’re mindful of shifting your body weight to strike balance, says Childress. “If you’ve had careless spending habits for years, then it may be difficult to change everything in a short period of time,” notes Childress, who suggests gradually shifting the way you spend. When your budget isn’t adding up, Strahs Watts recommends looking for high-impact changes. For instance, biking to work can save on gas and car maintenance.
However, balancing your budget doesn’t have to feel restrictive. Approach it like you would a twist in Chair: thoughtfully and from your core. Plan for a monthly “fun and self-care” expense, so the money spent is intentional—not a guilty pleasure that lands on your credit card bill or cuts into savings.
3. Warrior Flow for Staying on Track
If you speed through a Warrior sequence, you’ll miss out on cultivating the strength, fluidity, and present moment awareness that make a flow so juicy and energizing. The same thing happens if you don’t pay attention to your cash flow and charge forward with unchecked spending patterns—you’ll start depleting funds and missing opportunities to hit your goals.
Rather than letting an entire pay period, month, or year go by, set weekly money dates with yourself to review whether your budget is on track, says Childress. “Check in with yourself (and your statements) to see what’s working, what’s not, and what may need to change.” For example, maybe you forgot to account for your subscription to ad-free playlists. Or you keep missing payments and getting slammed with late fees. From there, take charge, tuning up your budget—cancelling Spotify premium and setting up autopay on your bills.
Don’t forget to check in with yourself throughout this process. Budgeting apps like YNAB can help gain clarity, not just in your spending patterns but also your emotional capital. “How do you feel when you add up all the small expenses on your statement?” asks Strah Watts. “Moreover, how do you feel when you make a smaller purchase versus a bigger purchase?” The practice of paying attention can help you adjust your future purchasing decisions—maybe next time you won’t commit to a subscription in the first place.
4. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga) for Embracing Financial Ups and Downs
No Chaturanga is exactly the same—one day you’re a well-oiled machine, then you’re noodle-armed and struggling the next. Chaturanga teaches us that no two days are the same, says Strah Watts. Bring this wisdom to your finances: When it comes to your account balances, plan on fluctuations: a work bonus windfall, a costly car bill.
On the other hand, if you’re dipping your toes into investing for the first time, it helps to understand that, in the financial market, volatility is the norm, Strahs Watts says. “Just like you lower down to your mat, the market can dip, but then you push up, and the market can go back up,” she says, adding that you need a steady breath to stick it out, and refrain from panicking and pulling out too soon.
Approach investing as you would when trying a new style of yoga—by finding a teacher, or in this case a financial adviser who will explain how it works. “Starting to invest without a solid understanding of your monthly bills and without an emergency fund can lead to your cash being tied up in the market,”says Strahs Watts. “It takes a couple days for cash from investment accounts to be sent back to bank accounts.”
5. Viparita Virabhadrasana (Peaceful Warrior) & Gratitude for Building Confidence
Peaceful Warrior is empowering because it moves your body and mind into a slightly unfamiliar stance yet opens you up to new possibilities. “You feel like you can do whatever you set your mind to,” says Childress. “When it comes to operating your finances, confidence helps you take action.” If money is outside of your comfort zone, tune in to approachable personal finance podcasts, such as Childress’ Financially Free with Cleo, Millennial Money, or Side Hustle Pro.
Still, let’s be clear: Managing money isn’t always easy. Even thinking about it can feel overwhelming. Plus, internalized guilt, shame and fear can limit your beliefs on what you can do to stretch dollars. In this case, before you tackle a financial overhaul, practice gratitude for what you already have. (Try this 3-Step Naikan meditation.) You’ll build the emotional and mental capacity to take steps forward and erase negative beliefs that hold you back.
5. Ustrasana (Camel Pose) for Cutting Down on Impulsive Spending
Opening up your chest in Camel Pose activates the heart chakra, tapping into your emotions, an often overlooked component of trying to curb a shopping addiction. “We usually splurge when we’re sad, stressed, or feeling overwhelmed and need an outlet to feel good,” says Childress, adding that a yoga practice can fill these voids and improve self-awareness.
Diving into your inner landscape can feel intense, so seek support. (After all, you’d modify Camel Pose by placing your hands on your sacrum.) “There is no financial transformation in isolation,” says Childress. “Join online communities that align with your needs, wants, and goals, or connect with friends and family you trust.” In some cases, you may want to find a therapist who can help you sort through deeper issues.
At times, the solution is simple: Ever notice that ads for the cashmere cardigan you clicked on are following you around the web? Use the “clear cache” function on your device to delete your browsing history, which makes it harder for advertisers to track you. Or you can recite a mantra when you’re tempted to add to cart. Try Invocation to Ganesha: “Grant me freedom from obstacles. In all things, at all times.”
6. Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle) for Paying Off Debt
Shouldering debt, whether it’s student loans or credit cards balances, can cause tension—hello, stiff neck and migraines. Thread the Needle’s gentle twist and the mild inversion can help you release the burden.
“Debt makes you feel like you’re trapped,” says Childress. It can feel like a stain on your credit score, which, in turn, impacts your ability to get a loan or a mortgage. It can feel hopeless. It’s not. “Make a list of all debts, from smallest to largest, and create a budget for how much money will go toward these debts each month,” says Childress, who recommends paying off the smallest debt first. One exception: If one of your debts has a much higher interest rate than the others—say, 26 percent, common on store credit cards, versus 13 percent—funnel extra cash to the high-interest balance first and maintain minimum payments on the rest. If your debt is in collection, call to settle for less than the amount owed.
You may also have to make some tough choices. “To pay off debt quickly, you must decrease expenses, increase income, or both,” continues Childress. This is the time to cut out pricey habits or pick up a side hustle.
7. Malasana (Garland Pose) for Setting Up An Emergency Fund
When you’re rooted in Garland Pose, you’re strengthening yourself from the ground up. Similarly, boosting your emergency savings creates a strong foundation, empowering you to deal when unprecedented expenses that cross your path. Experts suggest three to six months of emergency savings, yet 30 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense.
The pandemic has wrought lost jobs and unexpected medical expenses. “People realized how important it is to have something saved,” says Childress. “Something is better than no savings at all.” Starting at zero? Even just setting aside your first $100 helps—think about how transformative it is to place a single foam block underneath you in Garland Pose.
Also, don’t let your nest egg sit idly in your checking account. Transfer your balance and set up regular automatic deposits into a savings account at an online bank, like Marcus by Goldman Sachs or Ally, that offers a higher annual percentage yield (APY)—a rate of return based on compounding interest—than traditional banks. That means your money is making money, in the way you’re still active while in a squat.
8. Savasana (Corpse Pose) for Giving Back To Your Future Self
“Savasana and retirement are the rewards of your practice, of your life, of your planning,” says Strahs Watts. “In the same way that you’ve made it to the end of your practice and you’re grateful for the mat underneath, building your retirement is the groundwork that supports you in the later years.” Unsurprisingly, 31 percent of people consider not saving for retirement sooner—a top investing regret according to a Magnify Money survey. If you don’t already have a 401(k) through your employer or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)—which can be set up through a brokerage firm, such as SoFi, Betterment and Ellevest—start those contributions pronto. After two decades, you may be able to transform $1,000 into $100,000.
9. Sukhasana (Easy Seat) + Jnana Mudra (Chin Mudra, Seal of Consciousness) for Giving Back to Your Yoga Community
As you settle into a comfortable Easy Seat (or Lotus, if it is available to you), practice Chin mudra by tucking under the tip of the thumb. This represents the connection between individual and universal consciousness.
“Have empathy for the hurdle that the last 10 months has been for all of us, and compassion knowing that your local studio has likely seen a drastic decrease in memberships over the past 10 months,” says Strahs Watts. “It will take months, or years, for studios to fully recover.”
If you’re fortunate to maintain your income, keep your yoga membership, even if you can’t attend classes to help your studio and teachers survive this period of uncertainty. Alternatively, if your own wallet is suffering, offer non-monetary support, perhaps by volunteering to assist with virtual classes, offering social media support, or simply mailing a card with kind words.