What the Om
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Have you ever wondered what the Om is all about? Why the Yoga class often begins and end with it? Have you ever feared your yoga teacher is trying to introduce you to some kind of weird religion by inviting you to chant Om?
The Om (often written or pronounced as Aum) is a sacred symbol and sound in the spiritual world that is known as the sound of the universe. Often described as a mantra, it is considered to have high spiritual and creative power. It derives from Sanskrit and Hinduism, however it is chanted by those coming from many faiths and does not belong to any religion, but for connecting to everything around us. The Om is universal.
The difference between Om and Aum is that Om is a monosyllabic word, and Aum is tri-syllabic; which is really the difference in the way the words are pronounced.
Om is pronounced the way it is written. In Sanskrit ‘O’ is sounded by combining the two sounds of ‘A’ and ‘U’ therefore the sound developed due to transliteration. Many will argue that saying Om is wrong and does not produce the same vibrational sensation in your body. It is said that the ‘AA’ links to the waking state, ‘UU’ links to the dream state and ‘MM’ to the state of deep sleep.
I’m often asked this question, and my short answer is that Om is best used for short chanting before other mantras or to open and close a practice with rhythmic breathing. Aum is perfect for chanting as a mantra on its own as its takes longer to pronounce and also we observe the M sound to internalise into silence. In reality the Om sound however you pronounce it is beautiful and full of energy, love and bliss and therefore as long as you are engaging in peace and love the vibration either way will feel magnificent.
Everything in the universe vibrates, and the Om sound when chanted reaches the frequency of 432Hz which is the identical vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature.
Chanting has both physical and mental effects by calming the mind, which in turn calms the nervous system. These effects are similar to those of meditation, one benefit is that it lowers blood pressure, which is amazing for overall heart health.
It is common practice to chant Om three times, and this represents the three worlds of the soul, the past, present and the future. When we chant we are tuning in to a sound and connection to all other living beings, nature and the universe.
When we chant in the yoga class its a sign to the body and mind of respect to all the elements. It also signifies that this is a special time, and helps us to connect with our practice on the mat beyond physical postures (asanas).
In my classes I invite people to share OM (either silently or aloud) to bring us together in unity, each person having their own reason for attending a yoga class, but all sharing one universal energy and vibration.