The Meaning of OM ॐ
The origin and story of this sacred sound.
The sound of AUM is something you will come across in almost every yoga class and in many other meditation or spiritual practices. These days it is chanted to signify the beginning or the end of practice, though its roots go far further back then the development of yoga. The mantra is believed to be the primordial vibration that encompasses the entire universe.
Everyone may remember the moment where the opening or closing chant was something they relaxed into and the entire room seemed in harmony, cohesion and in connection. (There also may be memories of when it sounded like strangled cats… uptight, self conscious or disconnected!)
So what does this sound mean and why is it so important?
Its said that the essence of AUM, its vibration, sound and image was felt by ancient practitioners as they sat in meditation. As they looked more deeply into their experience of this sound, they formed an understanding that this ‘felt’ vibration represented the cycle of creation in the universe. The vibration of AUM brought forth the awareness of the entirety of the universe; the physical reality of this world and the body, the subtle impressions of the mind and emotions and the thoughts and beliefs of life and this world.
The sound as we chant it or feel it tells us the perfect state or super conscious state and all that precedes it are a part of Om. However in a more complete form, the sound can also be displayed as Aum, appearing as if the sound has three parts. In actuality it has four.
A (ahh) - creation of the universe, self and ego, the beginning
U (ooh) - energy of the universe, lightness and clarity within
M (mm) - transformative energy of the universe, unite with oneness
Silence - a moment of resolution, beyond verbal recognition, complete absorption
So Why Use it In Yoga?
Everything in the universe is vibrating. AUM is considered to be the sound of the universe, so when we chant OM we are symbolically and physically tuning into the sound of the universe and acknowledging that we are connected to all living beings, nature and the universe.
When we practice yoga, in whatever shape or form, whatever got us there, ultimately it is a practice for union. Bringing us together in body, mind and spirit and connecting us with the larger universe around us and within us.
Chanting has a physical affect on the body and slows down the nervous system, calms the mind and has a meditative affect. When we OM at the start and the end of our practise it allows us to connect on a deeper level than with just the physical postures.
So next time you land in a class and its time to chant OM, allow yourself to relax, let your throat soften and the sound come through you. Feel yourself connecting back to yourself, to the people around you in the room, to the dynamism and harmony of nature and the vastness of the universe.
OM and its place in the Creation of the Universe coming next…