April 4, 2012

“Yoga teachers shouldn’t have tramp stamps.” ~ Amy Jirsa

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The Tattooed Yogini.

Yoga teachers shouldn’t have tramp stamps.”

I overheard this proclamation, muttered by a yoga student sitting next to me, while watching a particularly gifted yogini demonstrate a series of asanas (yoga postures). I turned my head and took her in, but said nothing. After all, enough judgment had been laid down in her comment and I wasn’t about to contribute. I simply moved away, toward of group of similarly dressed, but tattoo-decorated, yoga students and continued to enjoy the demonstration.

Disparaging comments about body art, like the one above, are not unfamiliar to those of us thus decorated.

Most of the time, as far as I can tell, we couldn’t care less about others’ opinions. Ours is a generation of seekers, of nomads. We take up yoga, Eastern philosophy, Western philosophy, natural health, environmentalism; we move from place to place-seeking community, like-minded activists, and happiness. No longer do (most) people live and die in their hometowns.

On one hand, this inspires a generation that embraces diversity, is open to new ideas and has built deep compassion for each other and for the surrounding environment.

On the other hand, however, it can be a lonely existence; we don’t buy houses next door to childhood best friends or siblings or parents.

We don’t always have people around who have known us from birth. We have to be open so that we can connect. We have to work to find those deep connections with other wanderers. We have to find a way to find our tribe.

In my world, this world of nomads, tattoos are a common denominator; I can enter any new situation and, chances are, by scanning for body art, I can find people who share my particular concerns and interests or are at least open to my particular concerns and interests.

It’s a misconception to think that it is always rebellion that drives people to body art.

More likely, people are driven toward it by a deep need to express themselves, to show the world who they are and in what they believe. (Added bonus: in social situations, this cuts way down on needless small talk). Tattoos are a flag we raise, a beacon, drawing us together—a true tribal expression of community.

You are more than welcome to think that the Om symbol is sacred, that it shouldn’t be “desecrated” as body art. And though many people get tattoos for the wrong reasons or regret them later on, let me tell you, the person who put that symbol on her body? That’s a pretty permanent and beautiful expression of what is sacred to her.

I say the more tattoos the better.

We’re becoming a community too large to ignore or to downplay as mere rebels filled with sound and fury without anything more substantial underneath (next battle—tattoos in the workplace)—still slightly disturbed by and mistrusting of that tattooed guy down the street? Don’t be. Just know that he cared enough about something to have it painfully and permanently etched on his skin. If that isn’t love, if that isn’t devotion, then I guess I’d better find a different tribe.


Editor:  Tanya L. Markul

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