By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Children begin to learn tolerance and empathy when they find themselves in a diverse group for the first time. Perhaps, it is at daycare, during preschool, or for some, it could be when they enter elementary school. Suddenly, they look at the people around them and see differences: varied hair colors and styles, different skin colors, short and tall kids, shy kids, and boisterous kids. Through various experiences, they learn how to understand and accept the differences among all of us. As we grow into adulthood, tolerance becomes about more than outward appearances. It becomes about differences in lifestyle, religion, politics, race, and values.
When we look at our world’s history, the issue of tolerance comes up again and again. Our history is filled with religious persecution, race disputes, discrimination, and social hierarchies. All of these conflicts are the direct result of intolerance. Our world still faces issues of intolerance on a regular basis. As more and more people choose to model tolerance, the results can only be positive.
The foundation of Yoga rests upon acceptance of one’s self, as well as others. Yoga instructors have an obligation to students to model tolerant behavior at all times. Tolerance, in the classroom, means accepting all of your students as they are. It means helping your students overcome barriers, both physical and mental. It means accepting your own limitations as a Yoga teacher, and seeking the help of more experienced instructors. As you model tolerance toward your students, they will begin to feel comfortable in the Yoga class environment. This comfort will allow the students to grow in their Yoga practice, while gaining self-confidence and inner peace. They will be able to work hard at poses they thought were previously unattainable, or accept their own limitations and adapt each pose to suit their bodies.
As a Yoga teacher, you will encounter all types of people. Sometimes, you will meet people who are negative and self-deprecating. There will be times when you meet people who are over confident and egotistical. It is easy to judge people or write them off with a glance, but as a Yoga instructor, you have a responsibility to be tolerant of all types of people. You will also find you have a class full of varied abilities. It’s important to help those that need support, while encouraging others, who need a challenge, to reach a little further. As you model tolerance, by patiently accepting and supporting your students, they will also begin to be more tolerant of others, as well as themselves.
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