When Can You Call Yourself a Yogi?

TEN YEARS AGO, AFTER A long day at work, I waited in line at the supermarket under the soul-sucking fluorescent lights for what felt like an eternity. The customer in the front of the line argued with the cashier, while the rest of us stood in formation, lifeless, with our eyes glossed over. A child kept hitting me in the knee while his mother buried her face in her phone. I felt myself become short of breath. I wanted to run for the door screaming.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I stood tall and took several deep breaths. I acknowledged my frustration – and let it go. I checked out calmly. This was one of the moments I knew I was a yogi.

Whether it is one instant or a series of experiences, if you have practiced yoga, you eventually have a revelation that your practice is reshaping who you are. This evolution could range from the most subtle and practical life changes to shifting how you think altogether.

Here are seven of my Philadelphia-based students’ memories of the moment they knew they were yogis:

Stephen S. Tang, 57, president and CEO of University City Science Center

“Having done extensive work on my mind during my life, I was ready to focus on the body and spirit. Yoga helped me to identify and integrate mind, body and spirit into life practices. I noticed that when dealing with anything emotionally charged, yoga taught me to pause and connect to my breath, and then to move forward with a clear mind.” (Photo credit Susan Beard)

Ben McBrien, 41, woodworker at Farmhaus and surfer

“I can’t say a moment exactly. There was no one revelatory second, but when I realized what yoga can do for my surfing, I was in like Flynn. Most surfers over 40 are a sorry sight. Dad bod and general neglect set in, and that makes it harder to paddle and stand. Back pain is a career-ender for some at about this point. For me, surfing is my thing. I define myself through the act and accompanying lifestyle. Yoga has made me younger and lighter at 41 than I was at 37 when I started. Seeing the improvement in my body and posture and, in turn, my surfing has me committed for life.” (Photo credit Ben McBrien)

Dominic Episcopo, 50, owner at Dominic Episcopo Photography

“I knew I was a yogi when I wanted to do yoga all the time. I was bringing my mat everywhere I traveled, from weekend vacationsto business trips. I would practice yoga nearly every day. I even found myself doing some yoga first thing in the morning and forward folds throughout the day at work.” (Photo credit Drew Bonacci)


John Moore, 48, angel investor

“I realized I was a yogi when, after practicing for two years, I missed two weeks because of a hectic work schedule. When I stopped, it felt like my muscles were tightening up and I was craving yoga. My body and my mind both couldn’t wait to get back to my yoga practice.” (Photo credit Kate Riccardi)



Gabrielle Cook, 32, interactive developer

“At some point, I started to focus just on myself and my breath during yoga class rather than looking around to see what everybody else was doing. Then I noticed I was doing the same thing at work. I started to focus on my breath and the work in front of me, without feeling pressured or anxious by all the distractions around me.”


Ashley Brenner, 36, assistant professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia

“I was traveling for a summer internship in Ghana, where I would wake up each morning and practice yoga. My one friend saw me doing yoga and said, ‘That is your form of prayer.’ I never thought of it like that, but she was right. It really is something sacred for me.”



Michael Romanko, 52, executive vice president of merchandising and product development at Five Below

“I really remember my first classand I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t do that; it’s never going to happen. How can I breathe like that, let alone stand on my hands or head?’ Then one day, it clicked. I was no longer afraid to try things that scared me; I was willing to embrace the challenge. It was in that moment that I knew I was a yogi. It was no longer necessary to hold onto a fear, but use the energy to push beyond it and face my true self. A sense of calmness, confidence and excitement filled my mind.”

When Can You Call Yourself a Yogi? was originally published on U.S. Health News & World Report.

Article written by Jake Panasevich, US News. Practice with Jake Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30am and Wednesdays at 5pm. Register here!

Jake is a yoga teacher in Philly specializing in yoga for men and office workers. He is also a yoga trainer for professional athletes. Listen to Jake’s recent interview on NPR. You could also learn more about Jake in his featured articles in Men’s HealthHuffington Post and US News. Visit Jake’s website at yogawithjake.com.

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