Of use and abuse

ARTICLES – THE HINDU

Yoga helps you put everything to right use

Swami Gitananda defines a righteous person as one who puts all things to right use. Many are unwilling to make use of things or resources. There is a fear of abuse or of being abused. Once you allow yourself to be used, then the line between use and misuse becomes very thin.

For example, I may be an empathetic listener. I don’t mind people pouring their heart out. However, when it becomes a demand, I know where to draw the line. This may be met with sullenness or even aggression, but we need to keep such people at bay.

The minute we sense the line has extended from use to abuse, we have to assert our boundaries not just through words but also through actions.

The inability to express our displeasure can be mistaken for niceness. That is why in Asht anga Yoga, the first anga or limb is that of yama. Yama is control or the capacity to say `no’. We should be aware not to step on others’ toes, nor do we allow them to step on ours.

The law of atrophy
This law states “what you don’t use you lose”. People who meet with accidents are put through physiotherapy sessions so that the affected part regains its function. It is only by using that part of the body can its function be maximized. Similarly, only when you use your mind will its capacity develop. The emotions also need healthy expression. The more we love, the more we can love.

Sensitization to self-abuse
Today’s environment breeds abuse. We abuse the environment, we abuse power, our body and anything and everybody we can. This springs from a lack of self-respect. We don’t do this to hurt anybody but for self-preservation. This self-preservation gets distorted from need to greed. We ensure our survival by encroaching upon others’ territory.

The body immediately reacts to encroachment. The muscles tighten; we become tense; and breathing gets shallow. The more sensitive we become, the better we will be able to assess the situations and people causing this encroachment. Then we can step aside and decide what to do about these power struggles rather than reinforcing them. Sensitivity helps us identify our abusive patterns. We may abuse ourselves through drugs, cigarettes or junk food. Or it may be late nights, unhealthy expectations or unhealthy friends.

Even on a physical level, we are advised rest if we have abused our system. While lifting heavy objects, we can easily hurt our back if we do it unconsciously. We can avoid exertion, if we do things the right way. This awareness of use, abuse and misuse is what yoga brings to our life. It helps us put everything to right use.

– MAITREYI

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