The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

The Yoga of Getting Tattoos August 21, 2012

I WANT IT NOW and TRUST THE PROCESS don’t exactly go hand in hand.

That’s why it’s important to practice yoga and get tattoos.

*  *  *

Lately, I’ve been grieving…OK, OK…I’ve been whining in self-pity about what I don’t have.  I have completely forgotten: Be Grateful For What You Have; Time Takes Time; Everything In Its Own Time; Patience Is A Virtue; Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.

Because I want it now.

Thankfully, on my arm is a new, half-finished tattoo that is cracking and flaking all over the place.  A new tattoo forces me to be patient, accept things exactly as they are, and yes, trust the process.

*  *  *

“DO NOT PICK OR SCRATCH YOUR TATTOO.”

Tattoo aftercare instructions are simple and clear.  Wash it a couple of times a day to keep it free of infection.  Avoid soaking it.  Moisturize with a light lotion to support a healthy peeling process.  And do not pick or scratch it.

No matter how tempting it is to speed up the process.  No matter whether that one little piece looks like it’s about to fall off so I might as well help it along.  No matter how gentle I think I am.  No matter if one eye has completely flaked off and the other is still caked with ink.  No matter how gross it looks to have deeply crevassed, nearly indistinguishable blobs of color on your arm.  No matter how much I want to cover it up during its ugly stages.  No matter how badly I want my tattoo to be finished and pretty and picture perfect.

LEAVE IT ALONE.

DON’T FORCE IT.

LET IT HAPPEN.

Not that I have to completely disengage from the process.  As mentioned, I have to take good care of my tattoo.  I have to give it space and air to transform properly.  I have to prioritize its good health and nourish the skin.  But under no condition and in no way may I rush its natural development into the beautiful piece of artwork that lies beneath a sometimes messy outer layer.

Yup – the healing process of a new tattoo is just like the process of life.  Few things happen overnight.  I must do the footwork – then surrender, trust and be patient.

*  *  *

Practicing yoga is also a great remedy for self-pity and “I want it now.”  Yoga’s Eight Limbs are designed to cultivate peace of mind through any of life’s challenges, including desire and dissatisfaction.  In fact, the ancient text of Yoga Sutras promises, “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – yoga restrains disturbances of the mind.

Regarding desire, it’s easy to make a literal comparison to the process of developing an Asana (yoga pose).  I have reached few goals immediately in physical yoga practice.  Over two decades of practice, it took many years to build proper strength or proper mechanics for certain poses.  Currently, I am spending a month trying to improve my Bakasana (Crow Pose).  My version feels heavy and low at the moment; and I’d like it to feel lighter and liberated.  Although “I want it now,” I can’t rush this transformation.  It will take dedicated time, energy and practice.  I have to let it evolve, day by day.

Still, after a month, my Crow Pose might not be what I wished for.  And I will have to accept it and move on – either toward more Crow practice, or if an improved Crow is not accessible, to another pose altogether.

From yogic ideology, the concept of Samtosha means practicing contentment.  Instead of dwelling on what I don’t have, I am invited to embrace things just as they are at this very moment.  Dissatisfaction is erased, and “I want it now” becomes “I have it now.”  Samtosha requires a deep acceptance of the infinite factors affecting any given situation – factors beyond my knowledge or control.  Rather than complaining, I can choose to be curious as I live in present circumstances and stop wishing for something different.

Do I want to dwell on (and in) dissatisfaction, disappointment and the “have not’s?”  Or do I want peace of mind?  With the acceptance, curiosity and trust that come from practicing Samtosha, I can be serene despite circumstance.  No more pity party.

*  *  *

And so, if I don’t accomplish my vision of the perfect Bakasana; or, if my tattoo looks flaky and strange; or if I don’t have the life I am envisioning (yet) – I have to trust that the present state is serving the best purpose for my journey.  Even if the outcome looks nothing like I imagined.  Even if it feels unfair.  Even if it hurts.

Both yoga practice and new tattoos reinforce my long-held belief that life’s process, although ugly at times, leads to great beauty.  If I surrender my impulse to rush things and allow life to happen, that is.  At the very least, the current influence of both yoga and tattoos guarantee that this phase of whining and self-pity will be short-lived, and I can return to gratitude for the abundance that I should be enjoying day in and day out.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.

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4 Responses to “The Yoga of Getting Tattoos”

  1. colgore Says:

    I feel you. I’ve been working on Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana (revolved split-legged headstand). Every time I revolve my hips, my whole body goes with it. I do it at least 10 times a day and just fall, probably scaring my neighbors below me. I’ll get it, but it’s not happening today or tomorrow, or probably the next day. I’m going to start repeating santosha to myself all day. As for the tattoos, I have a horrific one on my back. I couldn’t see it to peel it thankfully. While the shaky, shaky man tattooed me, I started sweating and getting light headed and almost left with just the outline. How do you deal with that annoying scratching and burning during the process? Pranayama? Meditation? Whiskey?

    • Holly Meyers Says:

      Best blog comment ever. So far. Hehehe. You poor thing – what possessed you to allow that sweaty man to ink you up? At least you don’t have to look at it! Is it horrible? Can it be fixed? Could you deal with getting it fixed? How I deal with the tattooing itself – Pranayama/Dharana for certain. We’ve spent a total of 9 hours on this Saraswati piece so far, and he is amazed at how still I stay while he works. Sometimes I DO NOT FEEL A THING. Whiskey is not an option for me…not for the last 10 years, at least. But I was even sober for my other two pieces, which I got more than 20 years ago. Someone along the way told me that drunkenness would thin the blood and make the artist’s job harder, so, like the good girl scout that I never was, I followed directions. If you ever want to get your tattoo fixed, I know some steady-handed, super-sensitive tattooers (in the DC area…where are you?). As for revolved Asana of any shape or form – I’m probably not telling you anything you haven’t heard, but – are you beginning your twist subtly, at the belly? This finely-tuned way of twisting has opened the door for a few poses for me. But that blasted crow pose – I feel like the dang bird is grounded! Thanks for reading, Colleen – I am now following your blog and look forward to some smut. OM Shanti. h*

      • colgore Says:

        I was 18 and rebellious and wanted a tattoo so bad that I didn’t look into tattoo places or think about a design. I just went to a really bad area, the guy was shaking like a leaf, and I’m 99% sure he went to score drugs during the little break he gave me. I am afraid of needles, but had been successfully pierced so thought I could deal with it. No go. I’m in NJ, but I could do a D.C. trip one of these days to get this monstrosity fixed. I’m also psyching myself up for a new one one that features the wise words of Vonnegut “So it goes.” 9 hours is a long time. You are one brave chick. I don’t think I could get to the point of not feeling anything. But I do have a soft spot for Saraswati and your tattoo is looking pretty damn good. I’m going to have to work on dharana before that machine of pain comes near me again. I wonder if I can bring a candle to gaze at. Or if cats are allowed in the establishment that would be cool. I’d just pet my feline until the world disappeared. I am really trying to twist my belly subtly but I am the most un-subtle (is that a word?) person ever. I can twist and extend my legs against the wall and then move away and hold it. I just can’t get the twist down without it. I enjoy that you said “blasted.” Haha. Crow is not my favorite. I never feel that lightness either. But if you can do it on a tree I’d say you’re crow is pretty solid. Sorry this is ridiculously long for a response.

      • Holly Meyers Says:

        Your comments make me feel like we are old gal-pals. But I also think we might want to transfer over to either Facebook or e-mail for these exchanges! As for the tattoo-related fears, I know the breathing and meditation would help! As would choosing a simple design with little detail. Saraswati’s 9 hours (so far) come from the amount of outlining and ink involved. My DC-area tattooer friends would love to meet you so come on down! I have one who is excellent with fixing/covering old work, and another who is great with new art. But, no cats allowed – god forbid someone sneezes while getting inked up. Youch. My Crow is feeling lighter…a student even remarked that it has improved! Alrighty, write soon! hmeyers65@yahoo.com or Holly Meyers on FB. Om OM om…


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