What’s With The Tattoos? ~ Lee Anne Finfinger

Via elephant journal
on Aug 22, 2011
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There is one question that I am asked more than anything else in the entire world.

The question I evade so much that it has cost me friendships is this innocuous, completely acceptable one: why do you cover yourself in tattoos?

I have full, colored tattoo sleeves that include the words inhale and exhale across my wrists, a chest piece, a large piece on the back of my neck, behind my left ear, on each shoulder blade and on each ankle. I got my first tattoo when I was 21.

The answer is so simple, yet I rarely tell anyone. (I can count on one hand the people who actually know). Without a glaring, daily, jarring, colorful reminder of who I really am, I will excuse myself so that I can make myself very tiny to fit behind you. I’ll slouch my 5’9” frame down so that I can make myself diminutive in stature.

I’ll say thank you demurely and I’ll even teach yoga class in a self-deprecating way. Those who can move into that pose, please do. For those of you like me, no worries, you’re in good company, just modify it. There’s something safe about being small. We get to play a small game and live small. Our mistakes are small.

Photo: Jhong Dizon

Our worries are small. Our losses are small. We’re not risking much and we’re okay with that because we try to diminish risk. Without risk, we won’t lose too much, but we won’t win much either.

Without risk, we won’t screw up too badly or make a fool of ourselves. Every now and then—I get pulled off my path.

Someone will knock me down with their idea of what I should be. I’ve even had someone tell me that a $10 word I used didn’t sound like a word I would say! But there I was, saying that word!

After a few good conversations with friends and some big colorful nudges (that sometimes get in the way at formal affairs)—I figure it out.

I don’t want a safe life. I’ll choose to make a mess, start one way and change my mind mid-trip and turn around and I’ll risk big.

Look for me and join if you like— I’ll be the brightly colored statuesque teacher with the loud laugh making no apologies for intensifying a pose or falling out of that pose.

Either way —I won’t be slouching.


Lee Anne (LA) Finfinger is a full-time Yoga Instructor, born and bred Pittsburgher. She and her husband live with their rescued cat, Harmony. When she’s not in a studio, LA can be found baking, running (thanks to yoga!), traveling, hanging with family and friends, mentoring in the community, reading, writing and knitting.  She can be found at: www.lafinfinger.com


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43 Responses to “What’s With The Tattoos? ~ Lee Anne Finfinger”

  1. LA, I love where you're you are going with this. I want to know more, specifically, which pieces mean what to you (if that's something you consider when getting tattooed). Although we see so many women with tattoos, we rarely see women with, say, sleeves of tattoos. I am interested in what drives you to do this.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  3. LAFinfinger says:

    Thanks Temple, I know it's really intriguing I think – what drives us to mark our body and how. Yes, every piece has a meaning and the first piece was a simple vine that encircles my left wrist. It was simple and I could cover it with a watch (so when I "went corporate" I could cover it). I think I could write for days on this to really cover it all. Think I will.

    With Love,

  4. LAFinfinger says:

    Thank you Tanya!

  5. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    You are very welcome! 🙂

  6. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I love tattoos and I think it's especially charming on gals, if I may say so, although I don't have any myself. Most of my gal pals are all tatted up and I can't help but love it and admire it in a way.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  7. I love this! I have been described as 100 lbs of loud. I definitely feel that getting my tattoos were part of this process.
    My first one was when I was 38. I got Namaste tattooed in Sanskrit on my lower back. My second tat is a lovely OM on my left shoulder blade. They are and will be always just for me. Because of their location, I can't "see" my tattoo , but knowing they are there makes me feel powerful and beautiful.

  8. LAFinfinger says:

    Thanks Mahandeva! "100 lbs of loud" – I like that. Yeah, I think the tattoos we can't see are special in a unique way also because they are viewed by others more than us, but we still chose to put them there. Secretly empowering – in a way!

  9. George Bailey says:

    This might surprise you, but there are many people who don't care about your tattoos, or your vanity.

  10. LAFinfinger says:

    Hi George,
    No, that doesn't surprise me at all.

    With Love,

  11. I now have 2 tattoos and i'm gearing up for # 3 🙂 I love tattoos that work with lines… and love planning them, looking at designs, etc… gives me some sort of control that i can't get elsewhere, if that makes sense.

    First tattoo is a sunflower with the stem reading: et lux in tenebris lucet

    Second tattoo is a little black pin-up girl with a pin-up dog.

    🙂 Thanks for this post LA.

  12. jhon baker says:

    There is little sexier than a beautiful woman with tattoos. A lot or a little.

  13. SaraS says:

    Love your words and your thoughts LA! I remember asking you about your chest piece in Costa Rica. You politely answered that only your husband and you friend know. I appreciated your answer…it's up to you want you want to share. They are beautiful and so are you!. Much love.

  14. anna says:

    It took guts to admit the true reasons for your ink. I applaud you for your courage.

    A German study found that 27% of those with tattoos/piercings admitted to cutting themselves in childhood. Compare that with less than 1% of the general population.

    Moreover, most of those cutters said they tattooed or pierced themselves to overcome the "bad things" that caused them to self-abuse themselves in childhood.

    For them it was a socially condoned form of self-abuse that helped them to overcome psychological trauma.

  15. Linda says:

    LA – you are beautiful inside & out, tattooed or tattoo-less. Your words are unique just like you and I love you for your honesty, brilliant way with words, & genuine sincere caring efforts. Thx for being a friend and fellow yogini leader. I will follow you anywhere!!!


  16. Louise Brooks says:

    Just out of interest – what will you do when you grow tired of some or all of your tattoos? It's not like getting sick of one's clothes. You can just get new clothes.

  17. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  18. LAFinfinger says:

    Thanks Beth! Yeah – traveling do to yoga is always interesting. At times, it does force me to be more outgoing at times when I'd like to just be less visible.

  19. LAFinfinger says:

    Hi Lauren! 🙂 Yeah – I get that perceived sense of control… as they age… you'll lose some of that control! Hope to see you at yoga next time in in Philly or you're in Pgh! Thanks for sharing!

  20. LAFinfinger says:

    Hi Cain,
    I don’t think that Patanjali would waste much time at all thinking about my little ej post. (Woops, there goes that self- deprecating way again.) Darn it, I have to watch that.

    Either way – thanks for the comment.

  21. LAFinfinger says:

    Sara! Yeah – I probably didn't gracefully bow out of answering that as much as I wanted. I do remember you asking. I guess it took me a while to get up the nerve to answer.

    Thank you my friend!
    Love to you as well!

  22. LAFinfinger says:

    Hi Anna,

    Thank you and thanks for the statistics – that's interesting. I'm curious what those numbers would like like in other parts of the world.

    Thanks Again!

  23. LAFinfinger says:

    Always love to you Linda!

  24. LAFinfinger says:

    Hi Louise,

    I have put quite a bit of thought into most of my pieces. They, just like everything – are just who I am now physically. They really are nothing like my clothing or jewelry. They are like the birthmark I have that I dislike that isn't going anywhere either.

    Thank you for reading.
    With Love,

  25. LAFinfinger says:

    Thank you Tanya – much love!

  26. Karen says:

    Thank you for putting into many less and more articulate words what I have been trying to explain to people since my first tattoo at the age of 19…If I didn't keep putting myself out there, loud and colourful I would too easily fade to grey and hide away.

  27. LAFinfinger says:

    Thank you Karen for reading and for your comment. Don't fade to grey!

  28. […] What’s With The Tattoos? ~ Lee Anne Finfinger […]

  29. […] What’s With The Tattoos? ~ Lee Anne Finfinger […]

  30. […] Argh. Behold these glorious days of piercings and tattoos. “Everyone has them” is what you’ll hear often. This is a personal choice between you […]

  31. DCMama says:

    I'm confused – I read this article 3 times and kept looking for the rest of it. Lovely writing and I admire your strength, but I feel like I'm missing something big here…

  32. Lara says:

    I recently move from Florida where I feel like everyone around my age, 34 that is, has tattoos. I moved to Pittsburgh where I feel like I don't see them that often. It might be the sometimes frigid weather and the restrictions that places on ones wardrobe. Regardless I feel like I stand out more here than I did back home. Generally I don't really fret about it but there are those times we all have when are feeling less than powerful. Several months ago I attended a real yoga class for only the second time ever in my life.To say I was nervous would be a gross understatement. I am not comfortable in work out clothes to begin with and between that and my lack of any yoga teaching other than my DVD player. I was already feeling self conscious. On top of that my clothes for hot yoga don't cover my tattoos. To be honest I almost chickened out. I am so grateful that I did not. The teacher who walked in was LA and suddenly did I not feel so alone. I let go of the breath I had been holding for the last hour and I realized I was forgetting just why I wanted to be there in the first place. Now I go back every chance I get and it has changed my life. Thank you LA for being yourself and being unafraid. Your example give others the courage to do the same.

  33. doylee129 says:

    Yet you read the article.. and commented… so that means you perhaps do care?

  34. Beth says:

    I actually find it quite sad that you feel you have to cover yourself in bright, bold, permanent tattoos so you don't 'forget' who you are; so you're reminded every day not to slouch, or blend in to the background…. It's a shame you can't just 'know' who you are without having to permanently remind yourself with visual cues.

  35. candice garrett says:

    As a heavily tattooed person: I never get tired of my tattoos. If anything, I grow to love them more over time. And mine don't all have meaning. They reflect me, and my personality, but some of them were spontaneously done. And I love every one. All of my tattoos are done well (and expensive!). Remember that you get what you pay for when getting them.

  36. Anne says:

    Making oneself small is never good, if tattoos is a what you want, go for it! Personally I'm happy exclamation points come in all shapes and sizes 🙂

  37. Barbara says:

    Thank you so much for telling everyone such an intimate detail.
    Thank you so much for telling everyone, including me why I have a 9 inch Ganish on my thigh. I had never put it into words before now so well.
    I very happy your not hiding

  38. Raven says:

    Perhaps it would be best to step back and consider the difference between self expression and vanity, because we all express ourselves to some extent through our physical appearance and I don't think that instantly equates to vanity. I know this article talked about body art, and that that is a very emotive subject for some, but I think the point of the article actually had nothing to do with tattoos, vanity or even physical appearance and everything to do with having something that reminds us to face our fears of embarrassment or failure and to stand up and be authentic and present in our lives even when it's scary to do so. I think that's an important message for people.

  39. sabine says:

    agree – you don't tattoo something on you because it's in style or its cool… You tattoo a outside version of "you' – it's art…an expression of your soul….
    your soul only grows stronger and more beautiful – therefore, your art becomes more meaningful.
    Just be sure you know who you are and what you stand for, before you choose your art.

  40. Sonya says:

    I don't understand this article. Having to explain your tattoos has cost you friendships? I guess i wonder why you put them in visible places if you don't want to explain them to people. When you look different people are gonna ask questions. I am 50 have many tattoos and very long dreadlocks. I am a hindu. My hair is of religious signifigence. I travel all over the world and people stare and comment all the time. And i am small barely 5 feet tall. But ya know i answer questions and take it as an opportunity to educate. I think may people have weird egos and want to look different but then get angry when people don't react the way they want them to.

  41. Todd says:

    Personally, I don't understand the fascination with tattoos, especially in the yoga world. Aren't some of the tenants of yoga (and of thoughtful, loving people in general) are loving your body just the way it is? Of not judging other on appearances? By having tattoos, you're altering permanently altering the perfection that you are. You're giving a premise for others to judge your physical self and not the inner self. Like the current Men's beard trend, let's call tattoos what they are- an alteration of the body acceptable to certain cultures and generations and has NOTHING to do with yoga.

  42. Namaste! I got a tattoo yesterday too!!! I have 4, not too big, but still people ask that question. My parents included. They think I wanna be anticomformist but I actually turn out to be comformist because everybody has tattoos nowadays. I answered it’s for myself but they think it’s impossible, because if you do something so visible on your body you must be doing it for others to look at you. I just want to express myself and have reminders of that expression under my eyes, every day, all the time!
    Hugs 🙂

  43. Leslie says:

    Beautifully written. I too am a yoga teacher with tattoos that are very personal. I can completely relate. No apologies, I’m just me. Love the last line of your piece, so strong! “Either way- I won’t be slouching.”