Where were you when you had your first “OM” experience? What did you feel? What did you think? Reflecting upon it now, it was probably a very strange experience to chant this mysterious sound with others not knowing what or why this is even happening. We all started there at some point.
After a few classes and maybe a bit of home chanting, some of us may have begun to incorporate the word into our daily practices, singing it before and after class with your fellow yogis. But do we really know what we are actually saying, or connecting too? Here is a little OM 101.
“Om” originated from the ancient Sanskrit language as an attempt for the meditating rishis to associate a feeling with a verbal representation or sound. This sacred word was created due to the difficulty to express how “Om” represents everything, and is the seed of all creation, in essence it represents the Universe. Some even go further to say it is the organic sound the Universe made when it was created. Chanting “OM” creates an internal vibration that is thought to bring that individual into sync with the Universe and all other beings. Furthermore, the chant of “OM” is said to bring yourself into awareness with physical realities of the world and the body, as well as unlock more subtle impressions of the mind and soul.
Although the word looks simple: two letters that spell “om”, there are in fact four parts to the sacred chant. When sung out loud, or internally, the proper pronunciation comes out as “AUM”, with a pause at the end. The “Ahh” sound represents the creation aspect of the Universe, or the beginning of all sounds and is supposed to connect us to our deeper sense of Self. The “U”, sounding “oooh”, represents the energy maintaining the Universe and therefore connects us to our own internal energies and senses. The “Mmm” sound encompasses the transformative energy of the Universe and should unite us with the awareness of oneness and connection with all. This is where you may begin to feel a slight vibration within the jaw, the shared vibration by all. The last part of “Om” is the silence that follows the sound, also knows as anagata. This silent vibration is said to be the pure consciousness of the Self and the unity with the Self and All.
Now, when it comes to the chanting, even that is a practice in itself. It is one thing to sit in the class and join in the chant because that is what everyone else seems to be doing. It is a completely separate and unique experience when you begin to chant to connect to something bigger than yourself. All the reading and research in the world cannot enlighten one who does not chant with intention or with passion. So the next time you are taking a yoga class, and the “Om” chant is offered, see if you can fully place yourself in the moment and acknowledge each of the four parts, and then sit in the bliss and unity.