Can yoga help make you rich?

A few isolated tree poses won't do the trick, but some of yoga's traditional practices and insights can make it easier to balance your finances as well as your body.

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By Brent Kessel, MSN Money

Want to be more financially secure? Do yoga.

I'm serious. Yoga helps keep us from being run ragged by our emotions. It teaches us to breathe when the going gets tough and reduces our stress and anxiety.

Learn a yoga move to reduce money stress

And once we've got our emotions under control, we can make smarter decisions about our finances -- and about the rest of our lives.

"Once you get emotional on any topic, you're probably going to make mistakes," TD Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia cautions.

Some of this I've learned from experience. I'm a certified financial planner by day and a yogi by dawn. For 17 years, I've started my mornings at 5:30 with a two-hour practice of the ancient Ashtanga system of yoga postures. As I've gone from the yoga studio to client meetings, I've noticed that conventional financial wisdom doesn't work for the great majority of people.

See Brent's extreme yoga workout

Below, I've outlined a few yoga-based tips for getting your finances in focus. But first let me explain why yoga matters in the first place.

Our cultural norms tell us it's all about the money -- that more money will bring us the freedom to stop worrying and just enjoy life. We are told to spend less, to save more, to find the perfect career or even to think positive thoughts that will create the abundance we want. We set goals, create budgets, put the right insurance in place, write updated wills and estate plans, and invest as told.

But these actions, though important, aren't enough because they approach money from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. There is an implicit assumption that something must change "out there" in order to be happier "in here."

Money: 'The root of all good'?

This is where yoga comes in. My book, "It's Not About the Money," shows people how yoga's self-awareness tools can improve their financial lives. Instead of telling us to change our external behaviors, yoga helps us understand what's going on inside us. It helps us gain a better understanding of who we are, why we behave in certain ways when we're stressed or anxious and what the root causes of our suffering are. Studies already tell us that yoga can help sufferers cope with back pain, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, cancer, heart disease and even tuberculosis. This same awareness also can help us tremendously when we apply it to our finances.

Here are four yoga-inspired recommendations to help put your mind over your money matters:

1. Create balance

Whether we hoard, splurge or give it all away, most of us perpetually repeat ineffective patterns of financial behavior simply because we are used to a particular

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level of anxiety or calm, craving or avoidance and scarcity or abundance. But once you understand what I call your "money makeup" -- read more about that here -- you can learn to emphasize the money archetypesthat have been dormant in your personality.

Quiz: Find out your money type

This act of balancing the different ways we can use money is akin to balancing our strength and flexibility in a yoga pose. For example, if you've been buying too many things you don't need, cultivate your inner Saver or Guardian to balance your future safety and security with your current desires.

2. Find your blind spots

What do you know about your financial behavior that you'd rather not? Usually, our bad money habits are protecting us from fear or other painful feelings.

In yoga, we are taught to become aware of various parts of the body that we previously ignored -- perhaps noting some extra tension we're carrying in our shoulders or abdomen, for instance. With our money habits, when we look honestly at the areas we've been avoiding, we can identify the underlying motivations for our spending, investing or giving -- and transform our bad habits into behaviors that serve our best interests.

Tips for your investing personality

For instance, perhaps you've had trouble saying no to a friend or family member who repeatedly asks for money. That's your inner Caretaker at work. But such behavior may be masking a fear that your relationship wouldn't be as close if you phased out your financial support. By addressing your anxiety head-on, you can also help your friend or family member transition to financial self-sufficiency.

3. Breathe

Take a minute right now to breathe deeply into your lower abdomen. Don't force yourself to hold your breath or breathe too slowly, but instead relax all tension and let gravity pull the oxygen into the lowest part of your lungs. As you do this, totally relax your stomach muscles and solar plexus.

It is virtually impossible to be anxious about money with a relaxed solar plexus and belly. If you use yoga to create real relief during moments of acute financial stress, you can avoid making rash decisions -- for instance, bailing out of a sound investment strategy prematurely. That, in turn, will help you live the financial life you most yearn for in the long term.

4. Focus

In yoga, we learn to concentrate our attention on the present moment. The trick is to do that in life as well, learning to focus on one thing at a time and resisting the mind's tendency to jump and shift.

When you eat a meal, chew your food a little longer and try not to talk. When you walk, pay attention to

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your breathing and notice how your senses respond to the people, the sounds and even the smells you encounter. When you talk with someone, listen deeply -- noticing his or her expression and words -- rather than daydreaming about a new lighting fixture you've been eyeing.

How focus helps this CEO

In short, no matter what you're doing, give it your full attention, putting aside for a time all thoughts of what's next on your agenda. When your experience is pleasing to the senses and you give it your full, undivided attention, the joy you experience will be multiplied many times over, without having to spend more money. Full attentive presence enhances pleasure in a way money never can.

Try a 5-minute guided meditation

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Produced by Peggy Collins / Graphics by Joe Farro

Published June 2, 2008