Your Guide to Getting an Om Tattoo

Young brown woman holding her hands behind her back with an om tattoo on her shoulder
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You've probably seen the om symbol, either on the window of a yoga studio, on ayeurvedic products, or on someone's body. Hindu in origin, it represents a chant and mantra that is sacred to many religions, and is often spoken prior to prayer and affirmations. Drawn as a Sanskrit symbol, it can be a wonderful addition to your body art if you wear it correctly.

If you're not from a culture where Om (also spelled as "aum") is commonly used, you should do a lot of research before getting the tattoo.

Om doesn't have a definitive, literal, easily explainable meaning; it's more of a feeling—a way of experiencing, expressing, and describing the oneness of spirit in the universe. According to ancient traditions, om is the most elemental of all utterances—the very first sound ever to occur in the universe, also known as the "primordial sound." Because of the complexity of both its origin and meaning, it's easier to think of om as something that can help you reconnect with your own spirit and the universe, and the symbol as the physical manifestation of its presence.

The deeply spiritual, highly subjective meaning of om has made it a popular print on clothing, yoga mats, coffee mugs, and other small treasures—and a frequent choice as tattoo art. But it's important to know that this symbol is more than just something people who do yoga use. It can carry significant, beautiful meaning as a tattoo.

You do not have to be of a particular religion or faith to wear it, but you should absolutely appreciate its importance. Anyone who understands the value of spirituality and the notion of om's oneness with the universe would likely enjoy this as body art. 

Deciding on tattoo placement is a fundamental step in getting body art, regardless of the design.

If you choose to get an om tattoo, you'll likely want to place the symbol where you can see it easily, especially if you would like to meditate or otherwise devote time daily to it as an affirmation. The inner wrist, forearm, foot, and thigh make splendid choices. Other locations, such as the nape of the neck and on the shoulder blade, can serve as rarely-seen ways of connecting the physical to the spiritual, and should give you the satisfaction inherent in that. Because om is usually chanted three times, a triple om tattoo is also a popular choice.

If you've decided you love the significance and artfulness of this ancient Sanskrit symbol but aren't sure you're ready to commit to the permanence of a conventional tattoo, you can wear the om in other ways. Many people consider temporary or henna om tattoos, at least at first. This can be a good choice idea for ceremonies such as weddings and rites of passage; gatherings such as spiritual conventions and conferences; and practices such as yoga and meditation. 

Sanskrit tattoos, in general, are interesting and meaningful—one of the many reasons people often opt for them. However, their nature and history demands that you understand their meanings and be authentic to yourself in choosing them.

In this sense, your tattoo can move and inspire you as all good art does. Consider, too, that you'll likely be explaining the meaning of om for the rest of your life to others who see your tattoo. But if you're getting an om tattoo, you're likely okay with that.