RAQUEL TAVARES is both the model in this slideshow, and its author. Born in Brazil, she learned yoga from her mother as a child and is now a certified Ashtanga instructor.
The meaning of the word 'yoga,' like the meaning of word 'love,' has been butchered. The cynicism prevalent in America, coupled with the discredit of love as a concept, has led to an odd detachment from the word and its real meaning.
Love, of course, is ethereal and intangible, which makes it difficult for our materialistic society to comprehend. After all, love cannot be bought or sold; there is no manual for finding it. As Warren Zevon wrote (and Don Henley sang): 'You can't start it like a car; you can't stop it with a gun'.
In fact, love often goes undetected. Discovering and understanding love happens when you withdraw from the senses, when you form an understanding of the self from an inner union. So how does one form this awareness, this feeling, and this truth of love? Through the devoted practice of Yoga.
In Sanskrit, the root of the word Yoga is yuj, meaning to bind, to join, to attach and to yoke. Yoga often means union, the bringing together of opposites. It is within this union that you can begin to grasp the duality that exists within the self — be it love and hate, goodness and evil, desire and restraint, darkness and light. Through yoga you begin to balance dualities we otherwise tend to ignore. By fusing them, you see yourself and all the beauty and darkness that lies within. Similarly, as you get closer to the self through the devoted practice of yoga and begin to glimpse the atman (soul level), you form balanced relationships around you.
Devotion is Key
When we marry we say, Until death do us part. The last posture in a yoga sequence is called The Posture of Death or Corpse Pose. Success with yoga, just as a success in marriage, requires utter devotion. Yoga and love can happen, but they may not stay alive without devotion. To reach the core of love or yoga and to get to the atman, requires sacrifice, connection and surrender.
The most challenging aspect of beginning anything is to practice, to devote, and to surrender. That is why the most difficult of postures in a yoga series is the last one. That is why the most difficult part of a romantic relationship is marriage and why so many marriages end up in divorce — because that true surrender and devotion is not maintained, or it never existed at all.
NEXT: Savasana: The art of devotion