The biggest yoga lessons I've learnt over the years are the development of my own confidence and comfort with myself, my mind, wants and needs. Since I started getting tattoos, I feel even more at home in my own skin - comfortable, and confident in myself. At its heart, it's also another kind of yoga practice (yes, really!)
I been thinking about writing this blog for a little while, and it seems rather apt to be writing it a few weeks after getting my third tattoo - when not long ago, I wouldn't have thought I'd even have one! I got my first one just after my 30th birthday back in 2020 after a lot of deliberation and I found it an incredibly meditative and mindful experience.
All my tattoos are hand-poked. This means they are done with a single needle by hand, thousands of dots and are an incredibly artistic piece of work, made with lots of care, love and attention. They take hours - my longest sitting was 7.5 hours and my last one was about 6 hours. The other side of this I like is that marking our bodies in this way also feels very ancient and ancestral; it's something humans have done for thousands of years and hand poke is essentially the same process it has always been - something sharp and a pot of ink.
I often get asked about the pain of having a tattoo like that and honestly? It really doesn't hurt. At it's worst, it's a bit like scratching yourself with your nail accidentally and most of it you really can't feel. Getting your ears pierced is way way worse! It feels like someone tapping you very softly over and over again, which I find incredibly relaxing.
That focus, rhythm, time and dedication can really be considered as a type of moving meditation practice as you need to sit still, be attentive and be prepared to spend that time having the piece created by the artist. Meditation is a practice that comes under the umbrella of yoga practices and is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga - so it's most definitely a kind of yoga.
A decision like this also comes back to self study and enquiry (Svadhyaya) - that's a really interesting facet and element of a yoga practice for many people.
If you've ever frequented a yoga studio or taken a class ever you'll have probably observed that a lot of yoga students and teachers do have quite a few pieces of artwork on their skin.
If you are going to make a permanent change to your body like a tattoo, that takes a lot of reflection. What its going to look like, what it means to you, thinking about how it'll last and stand the test of time and being prepared to care for it for the rest of your life (having touch ups and putting factor 50 on if you're in the sun for any length of time). It's a commitment, very obviously, and a commitment like that requires knowing that is right for you, and confidence in your choice. That fits the parameters of Svadhyaya really well.
One of the other things you might hear in the yoga world is about the impermanence of your body - it's even referred to as a physical Sheath (Annamaya Kosha), one of my teachers even refers to her body as her "meat sack"- the idea being that your body has different layers and it is where we (our souls) live, or could be considered as a vessel housing our soul.
I'm not gonna lie, when I first learnt about the Koshas on my teacher training I was like "Whhattt thhheee effff" but it's definitely something that I understand on a deeper level as I've got older. Our body is our body and we live inside it. Our body isn't the whole of us and we aren't it. Grasping that concept took a long period of reflection, and I definitely think it's a very interesting perspective.
I found that quite an eye opener to be honest - I am not my body, I just live in it and I can decorate it how I want in a way that pleases me. Personally, all my tattoos reflect the loves in my life, connection, the outdoors - hiking and being in the sea. And I really enjoy looking at them and feel even more like me with them there.
Which really, is the point of yoga - coming home to yourself through movement, enquiry and personal growth.