So I recently got my first tattoo. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years, and now, finally, to celebrate starting on my yoga teacher training, I got it done! It’s a tiny but elegant aum symbol in black vegan ink on my inner wrist, just as a small reminder for myself but tucked enough out of sight not to call for attention. The full meaning behind the aum (or “om”) symbol is outlined below, but to me it is there to help me feel grounded and remember to be aware as I try to bring my yogic beliefs into my everyday.
Shortly after I got my tattoo, I wrote an article for Yogi Approved on the meaning of tattoos and their symbols in the yogic community. Although I cannot post the whole article for copyright reasons, here is the beginning for you, followed by a link to the original article itself with pictures and all.
I hope you enjoy.
6 Common Yoga-Inspired Tattoos and Their Meanings Explained
Tattoos, tattoos, everywhere!
You can’t go far these days without running into someone who has a tattoo, especially in the yoga community – from proud declarations of passion worn brazenly across the chest, to symbols of dedication that are tucked discreetly out of sight.
Tattoo culture is ancient. It’s unclear where it originates from exactly, but the first recorded inkings come from ancient Egypt, around the time when the pyramids were being built. These early tattoo forerunners believed that an image on the skin was much more than a powerful symbol, and actually allowed the wearer to take on the qualities of that image. For example, if you had a tattoo of a lion on your chest, not only do you look pretty badass, but you also take on the qualities of the lion – proud, strong, and a powerful leader, just like the king of beasts.
In the thousands of years since, tattoo culture has spread across the globe and back again, and today in the western world getting inked has never been more popular. In the yoga community in particular, you’ll often see the same recurring symbols, and this is by no means a coincidence. These popular tattoo images are not only aesthetically beautiful, but resonate with meaning and spiritual depth.
Of course, everyone has their own reasons for going under the needle and doing something so permanent. Whether it’s a badge of loyalty, a personal reminder of your beliefs, or simply because you love the way it looks and feels, we think tattoos are awesome. Even better if they’re yoga related!
Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your next tat, you’re not quite sure where to begin, or if you just want to see what’s out there and learn more about this ancient culture, read on, as we walk you through 6 of the most common yoga-inspired tattoos out there…
1. The Lotus Flower
The lotus is a symbol of purity and divine birth. The pure white flower flourishes in murky ponds. Hence, the lotus has come to represent the enlightened soul, calm amidst the chaos of the physical universe. The bud of the lotus symbolizes potential – it is the bud from which spiritual awareness grows. The number of petals changes depending on the meaning behind the lotus, with eight petals being the most common (reflecting the eight limbs of yoga) going all the way up to one thousand (to the crown chakra, or center of enlightenment). I’d like to see them try to fit that on one finger!
“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are… and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.” – Masaru Emoto
2. The OM symbol
The OM symbol, from Sanskrit writing, is dripping with depth and meaning. Each curl represents a different part of the human awareness: conscious waking below, unconscious sleeping above, and out of the two comes the subconscious: the dream state. The floating dot above symbolizes a higher awareness, or nirvana, and reaching this state of bliss is only achievable by passing through the dash that hangs beneath it: signifying an infinitely open and willing mind.
The OM or “AUM” is also believed to be the sound that was made when all of creation came into existence, and it is how many yogis often begin and end their practice.
“OM is not just a sound or vibration. It is not just a symbol. It is the entire cosmos…. continuously resounding in silence on the background of everything that exists.” – Amit Ray
Often used as an object of focus in meditation, the mandala is a gorgeous geometric pattern that represents the metaphysical universe with cosmic harmony as all paths meet at the center. Comprised of many intricate components and details, the mandala becomes whole: a symbol of oneness, perfection, unity, and completeness. The mandala is also another way of representing a lotus (see above) in full bloom with its petals wide open to the world.
“Each person’s life is like a mandala – a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life.” – Pema Chodron
The Hamsa is a hand-shaped symbol, traditionally with a picture of an eye at its center. The Hamsa represents bravery and boldness, and is believed to ward off evil and negativity – the ultimate form of protection when worn on the skin as a tattoo. The eye represents the divine, always watching over you and bringing you good luck. Wearing a Hamsa on your own finger might bring even more protection to the wearer, as finger tattoos were often traditionally believed by ancient tribespeople to keep negative energies and spirits at bay. Incorporate an elephant inside your Hamsa for some extra good luck.
“Rakhay rakhanhaar aap ubaariun” – a mantra from Guru Arjan that translates to “The divine is looking out for us.”
5. The Moon
From the earth, the moon seems to be constantly changing as it waxes and wanes in its endless cycle. Yet we all know that the moon never actually vanishes from the sky but instead remains the same, silently orbiting us. The moon is a powerful symbol for our own lives, as we too seem to be going under constant day-to-day change, yet simultaneously remain the same people as the day we were born. The moon can symbolize rebirth, feminine power and fertility, and the karmic cycle: what goes around comes around!
“Regardless of the shadows that cross the moon to make it appear less than it is, to the moon, it is always full. So it is with us.” – Buddha