Opinion

Yoga at central banks across the globe

Manasi Phadke | Updated on: Jun 22, 2022

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The stance ranges from power and steadiness to resilience

When I was young, there was only one type of Yoga. It was called Yoga. It was practised mostly by the elderly and was very Indian in its orientation. Now, they tell me that there are 13 types of Yogas. These are mostly practised by central banks and are fairly international in their orientations.

At No. 1, we have the Vinyasa Yoga, wherein the poses and breath flow in one regular continuum, complementing each other and reducing sudden, abrupt departures from each other. Think Surya Namaskars. Optionally, you might want to think European Central Bank. The Bank has been ultra-careful in trying to build market expectations so that yields do not show abrupt departures from their regular trajectories. The ECB’s statement reads like a Vinyasa dream-package. ‘The Quantitative Easing will end on July 1, and will be followed by an interest rate hike of 25 bps on July 21. The next hike is to happen on September 8, but the size of the hike will be decided closer to date.’

Of course, this particular Vinyasa has been so behind the curve that one can’t help thinking: Is this Shavasana? Or have they fallen asleep?

Less mind, more muscle

We move over to Power Yoga, which is less Yoga and more workout, less mind and more muscle. Power Yoga is more active and is done at a quicker speed than Vinyasa. Just like the Fed. On June 15, the Fed increased interest rates by 75 bps, the biggest rise in rates since 1994. This was led by inflation quickening to 8.6 per cent in May and consumer sentiment surveys indicating all-time low sentiments due to higher inflationary expectations. On cue, retail spending in the US had also dropped. The Fed responded actively to the issue through an aggressive rate hike — an American Veerabhadrasana as opposed to the Shavasana in the EU.

And then we have the Iyengar Yoga, named after its founder BKS Iyengar. Use of props to hold the positions for a longer time is a characteristic of Iyengar yoga. The RBI specialises in this form. In the post-Covid phase, it has been particularly showing off its ability to hold on to its interest rate stance. The monetary policy announcement in April 2022 was the 11th consecutive time that the repo rates were kept unchanged. Props used included Fixed Rate Reverse Repo (FRRR), which, according to the Governor, was expected to ‘impart flexibility to the RBI’s liquidity management framework.’

The State Bank of Pakistan (the central bank of Pakistan) seems to be practising aerial Yoga, also called as anti-gravity Yoga. In this Yoga form, the practitioner uses hanging silk cloth props to achieve traditional yoga postures, especially those that involve a heads-down feat such as Shirshasana. Key economic variables in Pakistan certainly seem determined to achieve anti-gravity. The headline inflation is at an unbelievable 13.4 per cent and is only surpassed by interest rates at 13.75 per centThe silken thread by which the country hangs is Chinese, and unpredictable.

In the meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) has been practising Yin Yoga. If Power Yoga is about vigour, Yin Yoga is about stillness. The US favours Yang (Power) Yoga, whereas the Chinese favour Yin. Yang Yoga strengthens major muscle groups, Yin Yoga focusses on deep tissues. This is done through holding postures that suit the practitioner for extended time-periods.

Whilst the world is grappling with inflation and subsequent rate hikes every month, the PBC has actually been toying with accommodative monetary policy stance. Given lower inflation levels and relative steadiness in the currency, it’s a mercy that the Yins haven’t actually slashed their rates by 75 bps in a mad world.

Nah, they’ve left that to the Russians. Meet the Russian Central Bank, the current ace practitioners of Hot Yoga. It is practised in hot and humid studios that are artificially warmed to exact 105 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing more blood circulation. However, Hot Yoga can spell real trouble, causing heat-related illnesses and dizziness in the practitioners. On June 10, just when the world was experiencing dizziness due to inflation, the Russians slashed policy rates to ‘pre-crisis levels of 9.5 per cent’ with possibilities of ‘further easing’ in the next few months.

The Sri Lankan Central Bank is into Hatha Yoga. It advocates multiple tools —  asanaspranayamamudrakriya and  mantras. The strategies of the Lankan central bank include steady interest rates and multiple negotiations with multiple donors. Take a deep breath. Its Yoga time!

The writer is a brave economist trying to laugh against the odds

Published on June 22, 2022
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