Yoga practice is preparing the mind for self-inquiry, inquire towards “What is yoga?”, or “The truth of names and forms.”, “What is life/worldly life existence?”, “What is suffering/the cause of suffering?”, or “Who am ‘I’, or who/what is this ‘I’ or self cognition/self-existence/self-identity/individual being?”
People could be talking about yoga according to what the Yoga Scripture stated about yoga – “Yoga is the union of the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness.” or, “Yoga is the suspension of the modification of the mind.” but without direct experience of knowing Thyself, or knowing Yoga.
When people identify and introduce themselves as “I am an experienced yoga practitioner/yoga teacher”, or “I have learned/studied/practiced yoga for how many years under such and such Guru/teacher/school”, or “I am 200/500 hours certified yoga teacher.” it only shows that they don’t really know what is ‘yoga’. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant towards many things under the influence of ignorance. If human beings can be free from ignorance easily, there won’t be so much ignorance and the consequences of ignorance in this world.
The realization of selflessness/’I’-lessness/egolessness, or non-duality/oneness/non-separateness/namelessness/formlessness/attributelessness/birthlessness/deathlessness, has nothing to do with whether one had been practicing ‘yoga’ for how long and how much, or whether one had attended ‘yoga teacher training courses’ and attained certain ‘Internationally recognized/affiliated yoga teacher certification/qualification’, or whether one is educated and can converse, read and write in certain language, or not.
Most of the time, when people talk about ‘yoga’, that they are practicing yoga, that they love yoga, they are talking about the ‘yoga’ as a form of exercise consists of positions/movements/breath control/concentration/relaxation that gives many physical and mental health benefits, that can help to improve physical and mental health and fitness condition, or talking about some kinds of ‘energy channels/centres cleansing technique’, or ‘sound/vibration/mystical/mantra/energy healing’ practice or ‘energy exchange’, or ‘love sharing and hugging’, or ‘yogic diet’, or ‘clean eating’, or ‘organic living’, or ‘yogic lifestyle’, or ‘yogic attires and accessories’, or ‘yoga mats/blocks/straps/cushions/etc’.
When people visualize ‘someone practicing yoga’, most people would think of someone on a ‘yoga mat’ wearing certain brand of ‘yoga attire’ holding a particular ‘yoga posture’ or doing a set of yoga movements consist of different ‘yoga postures’ or ‘stretches’ with or without some yoga accessories such as block and strap, or doing some ‘breathing exercises’, ‘chanting/praying/clapping/dancing/singing with music’, or ‘meditating in a cross-legged sitting posture holding a particular hand gesture’ with incense burning or meditative music background in an out of the world beautiful and peaceful environment, or a group of people happily chatting, cooking and eating ‘organic produce’, or something to do with ‘positive thinking/empowerment’/’relaxation and de-stress methods’/’healthy lifestyle’/’the sense of happiness or meaningfulness’, or even, visualizing people with certain appearance such like ‘tattooed body’, ‘dreadlocks’ and ‘smoking pot’. Just like what people see in the ‘yoga videos’/’TV documentary on yoga or yogi’/’yoga posters/advertisements/arts’, or in the ‘yoga classes’ in the ‘yoga centres’, or on the streets of certain famous ‘cities of yoga’ in India.
We often hear many ‘yoga practitioners’ say, “I didn’t practice yoga for some time because life was too busy in the past few years/months/weeks/days and I didn’t have enough space for the yoga practice. Now that I have more free time and free space, I want to start practicing yoga again.” It shows that they have no idea what is yoga and yoga practice even though they might have been doing some ‘yoga practice’ either by themselves or attending ‘yoga classes’ for some time.
Yoga and yoga practice is unlimited by name and form, time, space and causation.
Then there are also many ‘yoga competitions’ that are about ‘how good/well one performs some ‘yoga postures’ or ‘yoga movements’. “This person performs the postures/movements better than the others, this person endowed with the strength/the flexibility/the techniques/the artistic/the creativity/the grace/the flow/the endurance/the focus/the effort, and so, this person is the best ‘yogi’ and the champion/winner of this ‘yoga competition’.” There are also many ‘yoga events’, ‘yoga festivals’, ‘yoga shows/performances/demonstrations’, or ‘yoga international day’, and etc.
All these ‘names and forms’ don’t determined that one is practicing yoga, or one knows yoga, or one is a yogi. Those who truly practice yoga, or who know yoga, there’s no such idea/identification of “I know yoga”, “I practice yoga for how long for how regular”, “I meditate for how many years for how many hours/times per day”, “I can hold my breath for how long”, “I am a yogi”, “I am a yoga teacher”, “I am a 200/500 hours certified yoga teacher”, “I participate in such and such yoga events/festivals/courses/yoga competitions”, “I am celebrating yoga international day”, “I am a champion of yoga”, “I am the best yogi”, “This is how a yogi looks like”, “Yoga is so good”, or “I love yoga.”
If someone thinks one knows something about yoga but doesn’t really know what is yoga, and wants to approach a teacher asking to be learning and practicing yoga under this teacher, one must ’empty’ thyself of what one thinks who/what one is, of what one thinks one had learned/practiced/experienced/known/achieved. Actually, just by ’emptying’ thyself, or abandoning the ‘self-identification with such and such quality of names and forms’, one has already opened the ‘door’ of yoga, even without a teacher’s guidance.