Modification Around the World: Body Art and Modern Yoga

by Lorna
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pierced and tattooed yogi

There are many schools of yoga, traditional Hatha, Yin, Kundalini, Ashtanga (just to name a few), but one of the common threads that connects yoginis both Eastern and Western is body mod.  Many proponents of yoga have tattoos and/or piercings, a number of which align in some way with their practice of yoga or connected ideologies.  In a great many ways, the marking of certain points on the body with permanent tattooing or piercing lends itself to repairing or strengthening the flow of life energy within the body, a concept known in yoga as “pranayama.”

The yogic definitions, including the full list of asanas, or “poses,” are written and spoken in Sanskrit, a classical Indian language that is still used ritualistically in both Hinduism and Buddhism.  Due to this connection, many yogis have tattoo art that incorporates some form of written Sanskrit or other Asian languages.  Other common elements of yogic tattoo art include the open lotus (symbolic of enlightenment, purity, and oneness with the Earth), the symbols that represent the chakras (specific energy points in the human body), and the omkara or aum (ohm) symbol, representative of a sounded mantra that is often used during meditation or prayer.

 Sabskrit, lotus, and meditation tattoo art

Piercing of the nostril is also very common amongst yoga practitioners, particularly women, due to it’s status as a feminine health aid in traditional Indian medicine or “Ayurveda.”  Other prevalent body piercings include those of the navel, which lays just above and outside the second chakra or “sacral” chakra, and piercings of the ear cartilage, which can be used to assist in the development of will power or filter wisdom.  Multiple piercings of the nose, including the septum, are also popular in many Indian states that are primarily Hindu, and consequently have become more commonplace amongst those western yogis who have traveled to India.

 nose, ear cartilage, and belly piercings

For those who invite the purity and openness of regular yoga practice into their lives, body modification can be an art and experience of not just the physical, but also very much the ephemeral.  After all, if the human body is truly a temple, then spiritually charged markings make perfect sense.

by Lorna

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