Have you ever been to a yoga class and the teacher begins and ends the class with a loud “Om” together? When I first started yoga, I have always wondered the meaning of this sound, the purpose of chanting Om, and the benefits for our body.
What is Om?
Om is a single-syllable mantra, also known as bijia (seed) mantra. It is the root mantra, from which all other mantras emerge. It is powerful, yet easy to recite.
It is a sacred sound, a soothing humming sound or a vibration, and is also known as the sound of the universe. It is said to be all-encompassing and unifying everything in the universe. It is also the first sound from the beginning of time, and is the root of any sound heard or produced. Interestingly, this sound is actually present in all languages.
Now, sit in silence and observe the sounds around you. Listen. You may hear the humming, vibrating Om in the air.
What does Om mean?
Om is the sum of all four states of consciousness.
The sound of Om consists of four parts: (1) A (ah)(2) U (ooh)(3) M (mm)(4) Silence; which also represents all four states of consciousness.
“A”, the physical state, or subjective consciousness of the outer world, “U” – the mental state, or consciousness of our inner world (thoughts, memories, dreams), and “M”, the state of deep sleep, or the state of nirvana, allowing one toconnect with the higher self and becoming one with the universe. The fourth part of the mantra (anusvara), which is silence, is the crown of the mantra.
Even the writing of the Om symbol, embodies each part of the mind. Bottom-most curve on left signifies the waking mind, the curve to the far right symbolizes dreams, the top curve illustrates the mind in deep sleep and the dot represents the unknown state of consciousness.
Why chant Om at the beginning and end of a yoga class?
It helps to promote a quieter mental state through assisting yourself in focusing on your breath. It is also a type of sound meditation (kirtan) to start our practice.
Is chanting Om religious?
In some religions, they discourage chanting, or sometimes even yoga (That’s another topic in itself). In my opinion, chanting Om is actually not religious (and yoga is not a religious practice as well), even though you see it being practiced in some religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
Fun fact: Some say that Aum is the same word “Hum” of the Tibetans, “Amen” of the Christians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and “Amin” in Arabic of the Muslims.
It’s so amazing how this sound is actually present in so many languages and religions!
Another reason to chant Om, is that there are actually great health benefits to doing it. Here are some that I found to be beneficial to your bodies:
- Opens up sinuses
- Cardiovascular benefits – Lowers blood pressure, regulates heart rate
- Improves sound sleep
- Relieves stress and anxiety, reduces depression
- Detoxifies body
- Boosts immunity
There are so many beautiful facets of Om, and so many benefits of chanting this simple, yet powerful sound.
I hope that in your next class, you will join in with a loud, resounding Om whenever you feel your body needs it!