Tattoos and the art of Meditation for Anxiety

I recently finished off my second tattoo, ten years apart – I don’t think I’m an addict, but the second is certainly larger in size than the first!

Thanks to UFC, Cross-fit athletes and of course pretty boy hipsters, tattoos are becoming ever more the norm – for men and women alike! Let’s not forget the popularity of the Suicide Girls website.

You may be wondering what place a blog entry about tattoos has on a Wellness Website.

Good question. I happen to love tattoos plus what better way to reward a lean, healthy, physique than to decorate it with imagery that inspires you or reminds you of where you’ve come from?

If you don’t have a tattoo and you are curious what you might compare the experience to, for me it is the same nervous energy and anxiety I used to feel before any sporting competition – those persistent butterflies in my stomach, a sensation of excitement and trepidation. That’s how it feels.

So, to answer the question about Tattoos and Meditation…

There is much talk at the moment about the benefits of meditation, regulating your breathing and consciousness to maintain a level focus and to lower anxiety. Meditation which is evolving into the buzzword “mindfulness”, encourages a person to focus on the present, rather than any anxieties of the past or future.

So, before I went for my second sitting, all the while remembering the pain I went through getting my first tattoo, I decided to experiment with some of these principles. I remember the the intense pain from my first tattoo – the shading was a killer. Here’s what I did to stave off the impending anxiety of the next tattoo, the one you see above: Instead of reliving that first excruciating scenario, I put on some music (Bonobo – it relaxes me) and practiced my sun salutations (Surya Namaskara). These are a sequence of movements referred to as asanas. This particular sequence encourages flexibility, relaxation and has a calming effect on the mind. Did it work? Well I have to say concentrating on where my right foot or left foot needed to be during the asanas was a welcome distraction.

Did it still hurt getting a tattoo? Absolutely! Did regulating my breathing help manage that pain? Definitely! It is a skill like any other; it takes practice, experimentation and self-awareness. I have spent years practicing several forms of breathing techniques: kung fu, shiatsu, tai chi and now yoga. Meditation or mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but breath-work is certainly an integral part of my well-being.

“Mind over matter” might be an overused term, but it does have truth.

Thinking about getting a tattoo (or another one!)? Here are some tips:

    Do your homework: regarding both the tattoo artist and your design
    Don’t be in too much of a hurry; great artists can take months to get a booking and trust me they are worth the wait! Besides once it’s finished its there for life.
    Give your tattoo time to heal, know that you will need to avoid exercise for a couple of days until the worst of the scabbing has healed.
    Keep hydrated the constant demand on your kidneys and adrenal glands dehydrate you more than you may realise.