A lotus floating on murky waters. Mandalas. Chakras. Ganesh. Hamsa. These days, yoga seems to be a bottomless well of inspiration for tattoo artists and ink lovers alike. Still, before you get all worked up about getting your sexy body all wrapped up in yogic ink, there are a few things you should know about yoga-inspired tattoos.
Is Yogic Ink Just A Fleeting Trend?
While tattoos are as old as mankind’s desire for creative expression, yogic tattoos seem to have gone viral almost overnight in the past few years. A skin-deep endorsement of a lifestyle centered on mindfulness and healthy living, yoga tattoos have a value beyond aesthetics. Yogic markings resemble the tats of ancient civilizations, where images etched in the skin were a good luck charm, a symbol denoting age, qualities, or tribal affiliation, or even means of spiritual protection. In that context, yogic tattoos are more than just another lifestyle fad and they have a purpose that goes far beyond visuals: yogic skin paints are laden with spiritual meaning and emotional value, and as such, they’re symbols a yogi will proudly wear for the rest of their life.
The Symbolism behind Yogic Tattoos
There are hundreds of Buddhism-inspired tattoos out there, but the lotus flower, chakras, Lord Ganesh, manadalas, Hamsa, the moon, unalome, and the OM symbol (often found as combinations) are most popular among yogis these days.
The Lotus Flower
Usually painted white or pink, the lotus flower represents purity and spiritual rebirth. A symbol of an enlightened soul, the white lotus flower in the midst of a murky pond stands for tranquility amidst the chaos of the material world. Thought the tattoo meaning varies based on the number of petals, the eight-petal lotus (symbolizing the eight limbs of yoga) is the most common.
The OM Sign
A sign from Sanskrit script, OM is packed with meaning, and each of its curls stands for a segment of human awareness (i.e. conscious state, subconscious state, dream state, and enlightenment). An emblem of the common human experience painted in ink, OM is a yogi’s reminder that beyond everyday challenges and stress lies an eternal state of bliss, or nirvana, which reverberates the soothing tone of the best-known yogic mantra.
Geometric symbols denoting the metaphysical universe and harmony found in the heart of intertwining paths, mandalas come in many forms and sizes, each of them comprising multiple intricate elements. A re-mastered lotus in full bloom, the mandala stands for unity, completeness, and perfection.
Another popular yogic tattoo, chakras represent the energy centers within the body, and as such function as a means of spiritual protection. A sign borrowed from Kundalini yoga, chakras entwined by two serpents climbing up the spine denote the awakening of the divine awareness, healing, balancing, and channeling of the tantric energy which lies coiled and dormant at the base of the spine.
Although not as common as the OM sign or lotus flower, Lord Ganesh is sometimes found in yogic tattoos, and its main function is that of a good luck charm. The elephant-headed deity comes from Hindu tradition, where it represents the supreme consciousness which encompasses all things and beings and brings order into the universe.
A hand-shaped symbol with an eye in the center, Hamsa is said to ward off evil spirits and negativity. The eye in the center of the symbol represents the divine force watching over the wearer, which is why yogis often rock it as a skin-deep talisman. I have one on my pinkie – and if I’m to ask, it works like a charm!
A symbol of rebirth, fertility, karma, and feminine energy, the moon stands for the flux and flow of daily life, and it’s often found as part of composite yoga-inspired tattoos. Either full or as a phase, the moon is a powerful symbol that serves as a reminder that although shadows may cloud the view, the light of true faith never goes out.
I got my four tattoos at Tattoo Movement in Sydney, and unalome was the first of them. A sign borrowed from Buddhism, the unalome sign symbolizes the path to enlightenment, its spirals denoting the ups and downs in life and the straight line representing the moment nirvana is attained.
To Ink or Not to Ink, and How to Do It
If you want to get your yogic bod inked with yogic symbols, be sure to choose a symbol that has lasting personal value and a meaning you feel comfortable living with and being reminded of on a daily basis for the rest of your life. For instance, if you’re going to have a lotus flower inked on your hand, be careful about the number of petals and their different meanings; or, if you want to get the most out of a Hamsa’s protective value, get it inked on a finger rather than the back. The same goes for combining different yoga-inspired tattoos: though most symbols will go well together, you should learn more about the placement, size, and color of individual signs before you get the needle under your skin as this also impacts the mark’s overall appearance and spiritual power.
Ready to rock some yogic ink? Pick your tattoos carefully: though ink can be removed relatively easily nowadays, it’ always better to spend more time thinking the markings through than to pay a small fortune trying to wipe them away from under your skin.