If you’ve ever taken a yoga class with me, you’ll know that I always end my classes with one, joined “om” (aum). This is always simply an invitation for everyone to join me, and of course is not mandatory. Many people do not chant Om, which is 100% fine if that does not resonate with them. I wanted to take the opportunity to blog about exactly why we chant om in yoga, to help clear up any misunderstandings, or maybe just a simple lack of knowledge about the subject.
Many people believe that “Om” is a Hindu chant, and if you are chanting Om that you must believe in the hindu religion. I think this is the main reason why many people choose not to chant this sacred mantra… This tradition of chanting Om did originate from Hindu religion, but is actually not specifically Hindu. In the Vedas it is said that “This syllable Om is indeed Brahman. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that s/he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma.” For those who have never researched Hindu this word “Brahma” probably sounds a lot like God. In Hinduism, it basically is, but for them God is a lot more vague. Brahma simply represents the universe, and the source of the universe, all that is around us and within us at all times living together. It does not really belong to one single religion but embraces all religious ideas and beliefs. If you replace “Brahma” in the quote above with “the universe”, you will see that it is really open to any form of religion or belief.
In yoga, when we chant Om we are connecting to that universal energy that resonates through all of us. The sound Om, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature, and within ourselves. This mantra is supposed to be the basic sound of the world which in it contains all other sounds. When we chant this sound we are symbolizing (and creating) that connection between all of us and with the universe and all living things. It is also a way to delineate the time of our practice from the rest of our day and signify that this is a special time in which to care for ourselves and practice being mindful. All in all, beginning and/or ending with an Om simply connects us and seals our practice in a deeper way then just with physical asana.
I have also heard that when you chant Om correctly, with the three sanskrit syllables Aa, Au, and Ma, that the sound resonates through your center line up all of the chakras one by one. So when you start with Aa, you are awakening your root chakra and as you move through the chant you end at the crown chakra. Its interesting to play with the chant and see how you can literally feel the vibrations starting deeper in the base of your body and ending more nasally at the head with the Mmmm. By vibrating all of our chakras we keep them all balanced within ourselves.
In my past article about the frequency of 432 Hz, I also found an interesting fact about chanting Om and visual experience. An ancient vedantic myth says that a sound made from a series of syllables can make a mandalic pattern. Dr. Lawrence Blair tested and demonstrated this on a tonographer (a plate which senses sound and vibrates sand on it to show the wave pattern of that sound). When the chant Aum (or Om) was sung correctly by a Tibeten monk, the sound waves make the pattern of the Shri Yantra in the resonated sand, which is soo cool!
All in all, I like to chant Om at the end of any asana class because its a way to close the practice with something a little more spiritual and traditional. It brings us back to that deeper reason why we all do yoga, which for me is that connection between body, mind and soul. With “Om” we all are able to end on the same page and literally feel that connection between all of us as the mantra vibrates throughout the room. If you’ve ever been in a class that ended with a very powerful Om, you’ll know the feeling I’m talking about! I welcome all comments or questions about anything mentioned in this blog, and would love to hear all your thoughts on “Om”!