What the om?

During either the beginning or end of each yoga class, everyone is usually invited to join the teacher in chanting ‘om’. What is the meaning behind ‘om’ and why do we have to chant it? Initially, I thought it has something to do with religion and it felt a little strange for me. However, I soon learned that there is an interesting meaning and significance behind the sound ‘om’.


‘Om’, which should be technically spelled as ‘Aum’, is a mantra and sacred sound that is traditionally repeating at the beginning or the end of a yoga practice. It is a Sanskrit word that translates to supreme and it is said to be the sound of the universe. By chanting it, it symbolically and physically allows us to be one with the sound and acknowledge our connection to everything in the universe. 


Although it sounds like one sound, ‘aum’ is made up of four sounds: ahh, ohh, mmm, and merging mmm into silence. 


In yoga practice, chanting this with a group of people serves to unify the group and create a sense of community. The rhythmic vibrations are also said to have a calming effect on the body and the nervous system, which is beneficial in helping to lower blood pressure. Chanting ‘aum’ is a way to open and close a yoga practice, to designate it as a special time where we care for ourselves. 


“Om is the primordial throb of the universe. It is the sound form of Atma (Consciousness).” ~ Maitri Upandishad