When Jyoti Morningstar started her yoga and “off duty” fashion business, We’ar Ponsonby, she took on a unique approach. Her decisions would be based not on what was taught in the trendy business books, but by teachings that date back about 2,000 years. At the core of Morningstar’s business model are the yogic principles Yama and Niyama.
What Are Yama and Niyama?
Simply put, Yama and Niyama describe how we should treat others and treat ourselves. From a business perspective, instead of letting the almighty dollar and cut-throat business practices permeate decisions, Yama and Niyama encourage one to let respect, honesty and discipline be the key motivating factors.
Using this philosophy, Morningstar operates on the understanding that we are all part of the same planet and need to respect each other and the earth at all times. Her decisions are guided both by her own business goals as well as the question, “Who really profits from this?”
So far the approach seems to be working. We’ar has four stores and an e-commerce site that is growing 52 percent year on year.
Yama in Business
Yama is the first of the eight limbs of yoga and can be considered the social ethics. Translated, Yama means restraint.
Yama is made up of five teachings: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Bramacharya (sense control, non-excess) and Aparigraha (non-greed, non-possessiveness). These can be considered the what-not-to-do’s in life.
To carry out Yama in business means to treat employees in a way that benefits them as well as the business, to be honest and forthright in negotiations, to source materials in ways that are eco-friendly, and to make decisions that not only move the business forward but also improve the world around you.
And while it may seem counter-intuitive to the goal of business, Yama also instructs us to avoid hoarding wealth. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, but it says don’t be greedy. Use your gains for good, be it for growing in a way that benefits others or for the global good.
Morningstar’s business exemplifies these teachings. She employs around 150 people, most of whom had been living in poverty before joining We’ar. She hired each person for their sewing skills and now teaches them other aspects of business that will benefit them as well as her business. She also is committed to sourcing only organic and fair trade fabrics for her clothing.
Niyama in Business
Just as Yama guides how to treat others, Niyama guides our attitudes towards ourselves.
Niyama, too, is made up of five areas: Saucha (purity), Samtosha (contentment), Tapas (self-discipline, burning enthusiasm), Svadhyaya (self-study), and Isvarapranidhana (surrender).
Niyama teaches that if you live a healthy life and nourish your mind, body and spirit with nourishing food and positive thoughts, you will find a greater level of peace that will then flow into every aspect of business. Success will come in due time if you are living a life that feeds your soul.
Through Niyama, you can find contentment with where you are and can handle challenges with less drama when you see that they’re all part of a greater picture. Instead of rushing through the day with your mind in a thousand different places, Niyama says by harnessing your energy and directing it to one task at a time, you can work efficiently and successfully.
For Jyoti Morningstar and We’ar, this means being content with the business as it is and not looking to grow too big, too fast. Instead, her focus remains on creating quality, beautiful products and growing her employees as a path to growing her business.
Morningstar acknowledges there are easier ways to do business, but her goals go beyond just the dollar signs to creating a more positive world for herself and others.
Yama and Niyama for Consumers
As a consumer, you too can let the teachings of yoga be your guide. This is what Morningstar called Conscious Consumerism.
You have the choice for where you will spend your money – and your energy. Will you support businesses that carry the yoga beliefs into the world, or will you support businesses that drain energy? With more support from consumers, more businesses like Morningstar’s will be able to thrive.
The purpose of a yoga practice is to take the lessons learned on the mat and through the tradition and apply them to every aspect of life. If more businesses would let the teachings of yoga be the basis of their business models, there’s no end to the positivity that could be infused worldwide.