Yoga & Wealth Creation

On 27th September 2014, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi while proposing for an International Yoga Day said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world, and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well-being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” India’s resolution was endorsed by a record 177 countries and 21st June every year was decided as the date for observing International Yoga Day. 2015 was the first year and today we are in the seventh year of observing International Yoga Day.

Yoga is increasingly considered as spending certain time on the rubber mat and doing various exercises to increases the strength and flexibility of our outer self. However, in my opinion, Yoga is a way of living a healthy and meaningful life. Interestingly, living a yogic life impacts every aspect of our life – be it physical, financial, emotional, or spiritual. Patanjali Yog Sutras (a collection of Sanskrit sutras or aphorisms on the theory and practice of Yoga compiled somewhere between 500 BCE to 400 CE) highlights the adoption of the eight-fold path leading to the union of the outer world and inner self and takes the practitioner to the feeling of equanimity and oneness – both internally and externally.

The eight-fold path prescribed by the Patanjali Yog Sutras is a progressive process that starts with the Yama (abstinences) and Niyama (observances). With a sense of understanding the do’s and the don’ts, we move to Asanas (postures). This step helps in preparing the body as a medium between the external world and the inner self. Combined, these three steps are important to instill a sense of discipline and confidence in self. Then comes Pranayama (breath control) and Pratyahara (control over the senses). Here we ignore the material world and start moving within the realms of our inner self. The next two steps are Dharana (concentration), and Dhyan (meditation). In these two stages, we conquer the drifting mind. This enables us to reflect in our mind with one-pointedness. Samadhi (absorption) is the culmination of the previous seven stages wherein our mind gets completely absorbed with the subject of our thought. There is only oneness.

The question is whether this unison or oneness can arrive in our wealth creation process wherein we are completely focused on our investment process, we don’t get drifted by the market noises, have a sense of equanimity in our volatile journey amidst risk and return, and reach a stage wherein our life, life’s objective, and our investments are all in synchronization and giving us the feeling of Oneness?

In my opinion, if we follow the progressive structure of ashtanga yoga in our investing life, there is a possibility of reaching the Samadhi stage in due course. Of course, this will require disciplined approach along with rigorous practice and continuous effort and the results will be more than rewarding. Let’s look at how we can make this a possibility.

Creating financial goals and following an investment checklist can be treated as the first two stages of Yama (abstinences) and Niyama (observances). This helps in ascertaining the do’s and the don’ts in the journey of wealth creation. Many times, we keep wandering based on people’s opinions on where to invest and do not create our own investment objective and process. Obviously, the result is a half-baked portfolio. For countering this challenge, preparation of financial goals and checklist becomes an excellent document. This can be referred to every time we have an investing decision to be made thereby ensuring we do not deviate from our goals and objectives.

Similar to the Asana (postures) preparing our body for the next five steps of yogic life; researching the investment options and confirming they are in consonance with our investment goals and objectives will be our first major step towards unison. Generally, we ignore this important aspect and rely on the market provided inferences to make our decision. Remember, the portfolio is ours and we must make an honest effort to get the data specific to our requirement. At times we may require help of an advisor and we should not hesitate taking assistance. However, we should be involved in the process rather than delegation.

Pranayama (Breath-control) helps us cut out the external disturbances and focus on self. In today’s world, technology and information availability is a boon; however, excess of everything is bad and we feel the same is happening today by way of information overload. We need to cut the external noise and focus on aspects that are important for fulfilling our life and financial objectives. This can again be done by regularly observing our portfolio and measuring against our stated objectives. We tend to get defocused but the idea here is to keep on coming back as per our plan until this gets registered in our subconscious mind. There are times when we are tempted to change our long-term investing decisions due to short term market movements. We fail to realize that sooner or later the markets will follow the principal of mean reversion. This is where going back and forth between our investment philosophy and investing decisions will help us maintain logical decision making.

Pratyahar (control of the senses) means that we control over sensory organs rather than getting controlled by them. Not having control over sensory organs will make us wander without any purpose. We lose our focus and consequently make wrong decisions. In investing terms, we do get enamoured by greed and fear and other biases. Controlling them will help in taking rational decisions and eliminate biases in our investing journey. This can be achieved by following our processes and checklists, investing after due research and adhering to our stated processes thereby gaining conviction in our decisions and regular monitoring vis-à-vis our stated objectives.

Hereon, the actual transition from the outer world to inner self starts.

Once we get the above five stages right; the efforts required for the next three stages will be emanating from our sub-conscious mind. Our conviction will first lead to concentration or undiverted focus. Now, we can start focusing on the union of mind and body. Dharana (Concentration) in investing terminology will mean we concentrate only on our objectives, investment process and investments. There should be no diversions of thoughts or actions. There should be no confusion. We do not need to put special efforts into this stage. Now is the time to sit and relax and let the process take over from us. In this stage the short-term volatility will not impact us. We will develop the concentration akin Arjuna who was focused to pierce the eye of the revolving fish while contesting in the swayamvar of princess Draupadi.

Interestingly, our mind can remain still for hours together when it is calm and devoid of any confusion. This is the essence of Dhyan (Meditation). The body remains at ease in one position, the mind retains one-pointedness, and we can concentrate on our inner self to extract the best out of ourselves. In true sense, we become effortless in our endeavours. If we reach this stage in our investing life, devoid of emotions and distractions, completely focused on the inputs, and confident of our processes, we will effortlessly move in the stage of Samadhi (absorption) wherein the process will itself led to the result without requiring our intervention in terms of tweaking the process often. If we study the lives of investing legends world-wide, we will realize that they are legends because they went through these eight stages, knowingly or unknowingly, and achieved their wealth creation objective with seemingly minimum effort.

This process may seem easy to follow but majority get stuck or deviate in the second or third stage itself. At the best they reach the fourth stage and then turn back to the third stage and get trapped within. Moving beyond the mid-way requires tremendous willpower and discipline and rarely someone reaches the pinnacle but the journey itself is extremely rewarding.

On this International Yoga Day, let’s strive to reach the pinnacle. Not many may become the yogi who completes all the eight stages, but the aspiration and effort will ensure that we achieve more that what we aspired for.

Happy International Yoga Day!

Published by Vivek Damani

Vivek is a personal finance expert with 27 years plus experience in the field of personal finance. He is also a passionate long-distance runner and loves to have a balanced approach thereby leading a joyful life.

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