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Yoga to Cultivate Compassion, Gratitude, and Joy - Part II

Growth of these qualities is a sure sign that your students are on the right path in their spiritual practice.

By Timothy McCall, M.D.

Bhakti yoga—prayer, chanting mantras, and devotional singing (be it gospel or kirtan)—can be a powerful way to connect to something deeper. You don't necessarily have to believe in God for this tool to work. Some people prefer to think of honoring their connection to the universe rather than praying to a deity, but how you conceptualize it really doesn't matter. Ultimately, bhakti practices are more about the emotions than concepts.

Faith is another powerful tool for spiritual transformation. Understand, though, that faith in yoga is different than the kind of faith that many religions encourage. In yoga, you are not meant to take anything blindly but simply to do the practice, and then watch the results. Try to get your students to make an initial commitment to practice, and let the fruits of that practice instill faith. While you can encourage them—and your faith and your example may be infectious—ultimately it's their own practice that must convince them to keep it up.

Finally, yoga can build spiritual qualities and well-being by putting practitioners in touch with their life purpose, or dharma. Yoga teaches that when you quiet the mind using the various tools outlined above, you gain access to an inner wisdom that—with sustained practice—becomes progressively subtler. When you learn to listen to what your heart tells you, you'll know what uses of your life energy feel most meaningful, what you find fulfilling and what you don't. Steer your life as best you can in accordance with that ever-deepening wisdom, and greater access to joy, compassion, and gratitude are likely to follow.

Dr. Timothy McCall is a board-certified internist, Yoga Journal's Medical Editor, and the author of Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam Dell, August 2007). He can be found on the Web at

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