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‘Tis the season to be loved. But for kids who are bullied, acts of hate instill fear and dread in too many hearts and minds too often.
In fact, every seven minutes in America, a student is bullied on the playground and 42% of children have been bullied online, according to the Congressional Caucus to End Bullying.
February is the perfect time to commit to opening your heart to help tackle this social epidemic, starting within your own community. Find ways large and small to inspire change, as 21-year-old Emily-Anne Rigal did.
After years of torment for being overweight, at the hands of her elementary school peers, Rigal developed such tendencies herself. “I felt so bad about being bullied, that I put others down to try to make myself feel better, but it didn’t work,” says Rigal, who attends Barnard College.
Gradually, “I made great friends, who didn’t gossip and their niceness rubbed off on me. I realized that making other people feel good makes me feel good,” says Rigal, who founded, WeStopHate.org in March 2010. The organization helps others share their bullying experiences by posting videos to YouTube to help foster good “teen esteem.”
“You really need to have a good relationship with yourself before you can with others.”
Within eight months of its launch, the online channel amassed one million video views. A common thread of the teen-uploaded content is, “How flaws hold us back from accepting who we are,” says Rigal. This recurring theme prompted her to pen, Flawd: How to stop hating on yourself, others and the things that make you who you are (Penguin Random House, $15.95).
Not surprisingly, Rigal thinks yoga is a great practice for teens, as it reinforces the importance of building self-esteem and inner strength. “The meditation aspect of yoga—this solitary act of being in your own head can be very positive and uplifting,” she says. “It’s a practice that can aid teens in their efforts to see their flaws in a new light and combat bullying. You really need to have a good relationship with yourself before you can with others.”
Just as yoga is a journey in self-exploration, “Flawd aims to keep the conversation going on how to use your flaws in a positive way,” she says. “It’s the idea that we’re all plenty good enough and able to make a positive change in the world.”
3 Yogic Principles to Combat Bullying
Here, three of the many topics in Flawd that parallel important yogic principles.
When you act on any of the many opportunities there are to be helpful, soothing, or in any way a positive influence in the lives of others…you’re shaping the world into something better. Be generous that way. Share the good you’ve got going on. Share a lot of it.
Do nothing means being able to say, “I give up trying to change this flaw. I may not be able to embrace it, but I’m not going to reject it either. Surrender to things just the way they are.
It’s so simple. But, as straightforward as BE YOU sounds, it’s a very easy thing to get away from. That’s why it’s so impressive when being you happens. Being you happens when you’re doing the smallest, most ordinary, everyday things. But the smallest, most ordinary, everyday things are actually really big things. They’re acts of bravery. Ordinary acts of bravery.
ABOUT OUR WRITER
Erika Prafder is a veteran writer and product reviewer for The New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A long-time yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits KidsYogaDaily.com, a news source for young yogis. The working mother of three resides in a beach community in Long Island, New York.