afriske

Yoga Tattoos...?

19 posts in this topic

Hi Candace, this is kind of a yoga question, but not related to the practice itself. Hopefully it's okay to post here. I was just wondering what you think about the judgment people make of "white girls getting yoga tattoos." Yoga has been extremely valuable in my life and I would like to get an "om" symbol tattoo. I know that people will judge me no matter what I do or what tattoo I get, but I still wonder whether or not you get heat from people for your tattoos or if you know anyone else who has yoga tattoos that get bothered by the yoga community?

Do you know if this is something traditional yogis despise about Western yogis? 

Thanks. :)

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I'm not interested in tattoos at all, but it doesn't bother me if people have them. I'm sure there will always be some who look down on those with tattoos, but right now it's more socially acceptable than ever. If its something you want I say go for it. 

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Your question was what do I think about the judgment people make on 'white girls with tattoos'. I think people who judge others need to find something better to do with their time.

That being said, I think the "white girls with tattoos" might mean that you're acknowledging that there might be some sort of cultural appropriation going on and that might be what's holding you back. 

The om symbol is a beautiful symbol found in many sacred Hindu texts. It's a gorgeous mantra found at the beginning of many prayers as well and your meaning behind wanting it is not that it's a cool looking symbol that you saw somewhere and inked on your body on a whim. There is significance behind it. But I guess depending upon who you ask, it could be considered in poor taste. 

I'll tell you something. I absolutely love Ganesh. I love everything Ganesh stands for - the lord of good fortune and success, the remover of obstacles. I have felt so drawn to Ganesh for going on ten years now. But I cannot, for the life of me, commit to inking Ganesh on my body. It doesn't feel right to me. However, I also love elephants. They are big yet gentle, loving and emotional and wise and beautiful. Ganesh has an elephant head. So I may, down the line, get an elephant tattoo. 

I think at the end of the day, you have to live in your own body and make a decision that you know in your heart to be right for you, and understand that what's right for you may not be right for someone else.

(ps I have an om tattoo)

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Thanks, guys! Yeah, I just worry about what people think way too much, but the symbol really is important to me so maybe I will go there and get the tattoo some day. It's not like I'm in a rush haha, but I appreciate your feedback. I definitely don't want to engage in cultural appropriation, and I don't want others to be offended by my tattoos. 

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This makes me feel old, but 20 years ago (has it really been that long) when I was in college a tattoo was a pretty big thing, but I don't see it really offending anyone anymore unless its something really wild. Do what you want and don't worry what others think. 

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Why not get the tattoo somewhere discreet as the symbolism is only for you and not for public consumption? Two bird, one stone.

I have an OM symbol tattoo on my hip - cheesy positioning, but nobody is going to see it and it's mine. In all fairness, I'm Indian and a Hindu so nobody would have the right to judge me for cultural appropriation.

You want to do it, just do it! But make sure you visit a few tattoo places and that the artist doing your tattoo allows you to watch one being done, if you should wish to see it being done. The guy who did mine (16 years ago! Omg I am getting old!) let me watch and the person being tattooed said this guys was so good that it was only tickling. He was right.

dont forget to draw out the tattoo you want - the right one will "feel" right! Xx

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I think there are 2 different questions here. One being; Should I get a tattoo, and the other; Should I get an Om tattoo?


The first we can answer the way we answer any question about people passing judgement over others - Do f*** off. Tattoos are after all, still an indication of rebelliousness. Okay, they are more ubiquitous now than 10 years ago, but when you have them you can still feel their subversive power. I say tattoo whatever you want wherever you want.


The second question is, as you have recognised, straying into the issue of cultural appropriation. In fact the whole practise of yoga outside of Hindu culture draws this criticism. The trouble with cultural appropriation - we don’t know we are doing it because offence is not given, it is taken. And often it is taken by people with no right to it.


It has been going on for years. We pilfered democracy from the Greeks, Christianity from the Middle East and flat packed furniture from Sweden. Whenever ideas spread around the globe, the protests come water-skiing behind them. I for one think too much is made of the Westernisation of yoga. Yes, as yogis we can often be naïve and sometimes culturally insensitive, but let’s not forget that if BKS Iyengar, and K Pattabhi Jois were happy to share their ancient practise with the world, then I'm sure they allowed for the fact that it would evolve and synthesise in a very different way.


The Om symbol has become the motif of yoga. A shorthand, or a logo, and often no more than that. It is used as a tattoo by people to signify their commitment to yoga and I totally get that. I have a lotus tattoo for same reason. Personally, I don’t align myself with anything I don’t understand. The Om symbol is also most definitely religious. As I don’t understand the religion or the significance, I won’t tattoo it on my body. Personally. But if you want to, I won’t judge you as being culturally inappropriate. Just as I don’t when I see people with cross tattoos. 


I also love Ganesh Candace! He is the best of ALL the gods. I would love a Ganesh tattoo, but like you and for the reasons above, I’ll refrain. But I do have another elephant tattoo idea right at the top of my list :) 

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I found this conversation interesting, even though I don't personally care for tattoos. But, I thought, why are we so afraid that we're committing cultural appropriation when it actually is cultural appreciation?  

People who judge may have their own issues and insecurities, and you have to realize it isn't about you and not let it get to you.  I say this from my personal experience of being the one who was judging tattoos!  I'm ethnically Chinese, born in the US, and before I would roll my eyes at non-Asians who tattooed themselves with Chinese characters, and even laughed when the characters were missing strokes, etc.  I was judging because I assumed that person was ignorant of Chinese culture and tattooed only because the character(s) "looked cool".  But in reality, I was insecure of my own identity of how "Chinese" I was because I can't speak the language, and I always communicate to my parents in English.  So instead of acknowledging the possibility that there were non-Asians that could speak fluent Chinese while I couldn't, I made up a story in my head to put them down to make myself feel better.  Even up to last week, I said to my husband, "I feel bad that I'm not as Chinese as you are," (since his family speaks fluently), and he said "that's not true, you have the same values".  

And I think that's what you are representing or expressing, the values that om signify for you.  As long as there is sincerity without ignorance, no one should be afraid to express appreciation of other cultures and languages.

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11 hours ago, yogafire said:

...that we're committing cultural appropriation ...

My two cents...there are very few expressions I despise more than that one.

We're all one people.

I'm Jewish and take no offense when someone uses the phrase "schmuck" (unless I'm the target). I couldn't care less if anything that we say or do originated somewhere else...or in someone else's tribe

I love Chinese and Italian food (although not on the same plate); when I had hair I wore it in an Afro style (we used to call it a Jew-fro);l I enjoy Corona and Stella Artrois beer; I love Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Cheese, English Muffins, Greek Style Yogurt and French Fries; I drink Green Tea; I watch a Korean (South, not North) TV; I drive a Japanese car (made in Kentucky); I drink Poland Spring water; I practice yoga (and enjoy hearing the Sanskrit names for the asanas); and love watching Kung Fu movies; I'm pretty sure the gas in my car comes from either Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela or Iraq.

I'm American, but my grandparents were from Austria, Poland/Russia (the town went back and forth in the late 1800s), Germany and Lithuania, but according to the Passover Haggadah, my ancestors were living in Egypt.  I'm a man (oops!) person of the world! 

Let's stop worrying about being politically correct and enjoy the few short years we all have here. If you like doing something...as long as no one is hurt by it, just do it! 

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On December 2, 2015 at 10:01:20 AM, Robbie said:

It has been going on for years. We pilfered democracy from the Greeks, Christianity from the Middle East and flat packed furniture from Sweden. Whenever ideas spread around the globe, the protests come water-skiing behind them. I for one think too much is made of the Westernisation of yoga. Yes, as yogis we can often be naïve and sometimes culturally insensitive, but let’s not forget that if BKS Iyengar, and K Pattabhi Jois were happy to share their ancient practise with the world, then I'm sure they allowed for the fact that it would evolve and synthesise in a very different way.

Serious question - have you considered writing a blog or a book? I would read both!

19 hours ago, yogafire said:

 I was judging because I assumed that person was ignorant of Chinese culture and tattooed only because the character(s) "looked cool".  But in reality, I was insecure of my own identity of how "Chinese" I was because I can't speak the language, and I always communicate to my parents in English.  So instead of acknowledging the possibility that there were non-Asians that could speak fluent Chinese while I couldn't, I made up a story in my head to put them down to make myself feel better.  Even up to last week, I said to my husband, "I feel bad that I'm not as Chinese as you are," (since his family speaks fluently), and he said "that's not true, you have the same values".  

I feel you! Why do we do this to ourselves? I have to re-read The Four Agreements, but I can identify so much with this. My family is part Lebanese so I identify with a Middle Eastern heritage, although I don't speak Arabic, have never been to Lebanon, etc etc. (Although I can make some deeeee-licious yebret.) Anyway, on FB with the recent attacks in Paris, I have been seeing some horrible blanket statements about people from the Middle East, and I rage about it internally because they think about it like "them" and "us" and yet don't realize that they grew up with people (myself included) who have this background...but I don't feel I have a right to say anything because I'm not Middle Eastern "enough" so I just de-friend them (you can't negotiate with ignorant people anyway)  and call it a day, but yeah, these stories we make up, woof. Over them!

 

10 hours ago, LarryD517 said:

Let's stop worrying about being politically correct and enjoy the few short years we all have here. If you like doing something...as long as no one is hurt by it, just do it! 

This all day!

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15 hours ago, LarryD517 said:

My two cents...there are very few expressions I despise more than that one.

Agreed!  I only used it because others already mentioned here that "cultural appropriation" has resurfaced as another hot button issue. The only argument I thought that had merit was that "offense is taken, not given."  But always worrying whether others could take offense is neither productive nor realistic.

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I had somehow missed the entire conversation on the other thread! Another great example of the YBC community kicking arse and taking names!

17 hours ago, YogaByCandace said:

Serious question - have you considered writing a blog or a book? I would read both!

I have 2 abandoned novels and I was a pretty big deal on Myspace (for 20 people). I do enjoy writing though, but it is mainly for my own enjoyment. So I'm delighted that you have doubled my readership :) Thank you, it's very nice complement to receive from a (soon to be published) writer.

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7 hours ago, yogafire said:

.... "cultural appropriation" has resurfaced as another hot button issue. ...

.. But always worrying whether others could take offense is neither productive nor realistic.

Actually, political correctness (the blunt term) has consequences, some of them severe....

Quote

...According to a local Los Angeles news report, a neighbor of San Bernardino massacre suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik didn't report suspicious activity at their apartment for fear of being accused of racism.  ...

Source

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Larry, thanks for drawing my attention to how biased the media is.  Even though the original source was from the local news, I couldn't find another report of this neighbor from an established big name news source that wasn't right-biased (i.e. I found it only on FoxNews).  Even WSJ's headline proclaims "Neighbors, Acquaintances Shocked That Couple Are San Bernardino Shooting Suspects". It's disastrous to have a false negative such as San Bernardino, but whenever there are false positives, the major media outlets wake up and jump onto the bandwagon with the social media backlash. Recent false positive examples include teen suspended for making homemade clock and 19 cops show up because her neighbors thought she was breaking into her own apt. I fear this is a major contributor to why reasonable people doubt themselves (including the question originally posed on this thread!).

 

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11 hours ago, yogafire said:

Larry, thanks for drawing my attention to how biased the media is.  ...

... whenever there are false positives, the major media outlets wake up and jump onto the bandwagon with the social media backlash...

In a thread that I've already hijacked, I'm trying to resist hijacking it further (especially when it comes close to the third rail of forum etiquette ...politics), so I'll exercise enormous restraint and simply add...agreed (10,000%)

Ignoring important aspects of news stories, or worse, parroting the party line (by the main stream media), to serve an agenda or to fit a particular narrative, has had chilling effect, is destructive to society and lacks independence that citizenry demand from their fourth estate

Okay, so my attempt at restraint failed

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Wow, I'm glad this thread spurred some interesting conversation. In terms of the tattoo, I will get it if I decide I want it for sure. I already have one, so I'm used to the process at the very least.

I really feel what you guys are saying about this. I really agree with @yogafire. I feel like I really appreciate the culture and I'm not trying to pretend I'm from the culture, but rather showing how much yoga has changed my life.

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On ‎11‎/‎20‎/‎2015 at 4:09 PM, afriske said:

Hi Candace, this is kind of a yoga question, but not related to the practice itself. Hopefully it's okay to post here. I was just wondering what you think about the judgment people make of "white girls getting yoga tattoos." Yoga has been extremely valuable in my life and I would like to get an "om" symbol tattoo. I know that people will judge me no matter what I do or what tattoo I get, but I still wonder whether or not you get heat from people for your tattoos or if you know anyone else who has yoga tattoos that get bothered by the yoga community?

Do you know if this is something traditional yogis despise about Western yogis? 

Thanks. :)

I also read somewhere that it also depends on where you put the om symbol and that it isn't to be on lower part of your body like feet. I may be wrong but something to look into before getting one. Other than that I say go for it! I love tattoos!!!

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This is actually an interesting thread because, man, did I fight to get my first tattoo. I grew up not really wanting tattoos. Catholics don't get tattoos. It's against our religion, so to speak. I always thought many were beautiful, as tattoos are often an art of their own, but I never longed for one...until my grandmother died. Then I thought about one, a small one behind my right ear emblazoned with the word "strength." I fought for it for three days and I won and so there it is, behind my right ear in black ink, the word "Strength" - a simple reminder to find strength in myself and others and an homage to someone who had more strength than even I knew.

I have two more. I have four horseshoes on my left forearm and a dog dressed up at Batgirl on my right forearm. They are tributes to two other traumas in my life. Tattoos for me are a way of presenting trauma as healing art. My grams used to be called the "stubborn old goat" which I've since inherited (being even more stubborn), so I'd like to find a way to pay homage to that.

For tattoos with cultural significance like "om," I would do some research like this blogger suggests: https://thelostyak.com/2012/04/21/how-not-to-tattoo-a-tibetan-mantra/

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