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The Sound Om


By Liz Rosenblum - 5/27/2013

Yoga
  Photo Credit: Aleksandr Markin / Shutterstock.com

The sound and symbol Om are often intertwined with yoga. The two are so closely linked that the image can be found in just about every single yoga studio from Florida to Fargo. But how many people really know what it means or why we chant it - often both to start and to close a practice.

Perhaps one of the challenges in truly understanding Om is that for such a little word, its meaning is incredibly complex. First, there is the symbol itself and the various segments that come together to form it into the image we all know and see in just about every reference to the practice of yoga.

Then there is the fact that a word make up of just two letters, when written in English, can actually be chanted in three parts - Ahhh-Ooooh-Mm - and is often even spelled the way it is intended to sound, AUM.

On top of that, depending on whom you talk to and their religious or scientific background, Om can have many different meaning.

Here, we will tackle the sound itself and the reason for incorporating it into a yoga practice.

Om is considered the basis of all sounds. It gives rise to all other sounds in the universe and is the beginning of all other chants. The reason for the importance of Om is the vibration that is created when the sound is emitted. It is said that all elements of the universe are made up of vibrating energy - and the sound of Om, or AUM, is the audible sound of that energy.

When we chant, or hum, the sound, the energy of the room comes together and at the same time bring each practitioner's awareness to the self and the individual experience.

The sound itself is settling and calming as it works on the body's internal rhythm to settle the active mind and spirit.

Patanjali, the father of yoga, taught us that chanting Om while also contemplating its meaning adds to the goal of one-pointed consciousness, setting us up for the practice itself - bringing together breath, movement and meditation.

Two Letters - Three Unique Sounds

As you chant the ancient sound, you can feel the vibrations of the three elements as they move through the body. The first, the Ah, begins deep in the abdomen. From there, U, or ooooh (pronounced like the end of the work you), moves up into the chest. Finally, the sound of the M, done with the lips gently touching, is felt in the head. Each element of the sound is intended to be separated, with the mind focusing on each as the three elements combine to create a powerful experience of Om.

The Fourth Element - Silence

The power of Om doesn't end with the sound. Equally important is the silence that follows the vibration. Silence is the fourth stage. As the sound moves up the body to end in the head - the silence is beyond the head. In other words, it takes what is already a powerful experience to an experience that is beyond consciousness.

Just as yoga is a practice, the benefits and teachings of which are intended to be carried into all aspects of our lives, so too can the power of Om. The chant doesn't need to be reserved for just the start and end of a practice, but instead can be done any time you feel the need to settle the mind and body and to bring a feeling of discourse and unsettledness into rhythm.


 








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