Picture this: You depart your yoga class sweaty and glad, happy you pushed your follow somewhat additional than the day earlier than. You have a busy day forward and need to cling on to the post-Savasana peace—even via all of your conferences, errands, and preventing rush hour visitors. Fortunately, you bought a bit Hamsa image tattooed in your wrist final yr, a everlasting reminder of your personal capability for calm.
Whether it’s a tiny mudra someplace personal or an enormous Buddha sleeve on a bicep, yoga tattoos have grown in reputation as visible reminders of the teachings to be present in yoga and meditation practices. Yet a celebration of self-compassion for one individual may come throughout very in a different way for somebody of Asian, Buddhist, or Hindu background. After all, totally different cultures have diverging opinions relating to whether or not or not tattooing spiritual imagery is acceptable, says Buddhist monk Soin Satoshi Fujio.
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For instance, he notes that in Japan (the place Mahayana Buddhism is well-liked) small tattoos is perhaps thought-about nothing greater than a style assertion, however greater tattoos are nonetheless extensively related to mafia teams just like the Yakuza. Meanwhile, nations like Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar (the place Hinayana Buddhism is extra widespread) many individuals have a really private, personal strategy to faith that Fujio-san describes as “exclusive” and “closed.” Prominent public, individualist depictions of revered spiritual symbols or figures may baffle or offend.
Zen Buddhist Reverend Jin Sakai of Kanagawa, Japan, says that though Buddhist teachings don’t outright prohibit religious depictions (like that of the Buddha) on issues similar to T-shirts or as tattoos, such imagery might be seen as cavalier or irreverent. “Buddhist imagery symbolizes something noble and spiritual,” he says. So seeing Buddhist symbols in tattoos, bumper stickers, leggings, and the like “can intimidate people who are sensitive [to tradition].”
In different phrases, there are numerous nuances to the Buddhist religion and cultures the place Buddhism is widespread that you simply won’t decide up on in your weekly hot yoga class or meditation circle. It’s necessary to keep in mind that Western attitudes about tattoos don’t all the time align with how training Buddhists in several counties and denominations view such public shows of religion, or how they’ll obtain seeing such shows on individuals who seem to return from outdoors that tradition or spiritual denomination.
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Yoga Tattoos and Cultural Appropriation
Not solely that, yoga-inspired tattoos can fire up loads of emotions about cultural appropriation and even erasure. Essentially, cultural appropriation is when a dominant tradition borrows parts of a minority tradition. That won’t sound like an enormous deal—in any case, isn’t it a superb factor to have fun variety and different cultures? The drawback is when the dominant tradition advantages from or provides itself credit score for “discovering” or perfecting, say, hen vindaloo or Bollywood films, with out absolutely acknowledging or understanding the cultural context that produced these developments.
It may be irritating and hurtful for individuals of colour or different religions to see a couple of parts of their faith and tradition adopted by white westerners whereas they nonetheless proceed to face discrimination or are pressured to evolve to the dominant tradition in most features of their every day lives. If you have been teased as a toddler, for instance, for bringing curry to high school in your lunchbox, it won’t sit nicely to see a non-Indian pop star sporting bindis or sporting a sari outdoors the settings or events when somebody of an Indian background would.
As Roopa Cheema, an anti-racism educator in Toronto, Canada, explains cultural appropriation: “When white folks get yoga tattoos and are considered ‘cool’ because of it but my South Asian mother gets told to go back to her own country when she wears henna, that’s a big problem.”
Los Angeles tattoo artist Emily Effler echoes Cheema’s considerations. The reputation of yoga-themed tattoos typically outpaces schooling concerning the wealthy traditions, languages, and beliefs behind the symbols. “A lot of people come in asking for a commonly used image, and they don’t even know the full history or cultural significance of what it is that they’re getting,” says Effler. “It kind of blows my mind how little people actually care about the origin of their tattoo and where it comes from.”
Effler says she’s had multiple shopper are available requesting a tattoo design that’s rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, or yoga. Those design inquiries have ranged from an enormous portrait of the Hindu god Ganesh to a small, easy triangle that a potential shopper requested for after seeing one thing comparable in passing. When requested why the triangle appealed to her, the shopper stated it appeared type of “Buddhist or something.” Effler stated that in situations like these, the shoppers didn’t have a robust background in both the Hindu or Buddhist faiths. “They want something that’s pre-approved culturally or by their peer group,” she theorized.
Mindfulness Around Tattoo Symbolism
So what’s a yogi to do? The reply truly lies in the identical mindfulness we study in our yoga follow. Check in with your self about what’s motivating you to get yoga-inspired ink. Learn as a lot as attainable concerning the symbols you are feeling drawn to, the place they arrive from, and what they imply to members of that religion or tradition. Ask your self how somebody from that religion or cultural background may really feel seeing your tattoo—particularly in case you journey or have a robust social media presence. A bit reflection and self-honesty will help you select a bit of physique artwork you’ll be proud to sport for many years to return, and that gained’t harm anybody else alongside the best way.
Keep scrolling to see a few of the hottest yoga tattoos proper now. Then, inform us: What do you assume?
Popular Yoga Tattoos
About the Author
Meghan O’Dea is a author, world traveler, and life-long learner who grew up within the foothills of Appalachia. College led to summer time stints in England and Slovenia, grad faculty to a sojourn Hong Kong, and curiosity to in all places in between. She has written for the Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, Chowhound, Eater Magazine, and Uproxx amongst others. Meghan hopes to go to all seven continents with pen and paper in tow.