OM is considered the primordial sound in Yogic culture. First there was OM and then came everything else. Book 1:27 from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali “The word expressive of Ishvara is the mystic sound OM.” OM is used to clear space and also to unite energy such as at the beginning or end of a Yoga class. Whether you have chanted OM before or simply sat and absorbed the sound, it’s power can be quite profound perhaps even leaving you with tingles up and down your spine.
To chant OM, we use all the positions of our mouth in the same way the Sanskrit language is spoken. Starting at the back of our throat and bringing the sound forward through to our lips, at the same time the sound is felt blossoming in the belly rising up to our hearts all the way to the crown of our head. The sound is pronounced as A-U-M
The vibrations felt from chanting OM work in two ways, physically and energetically. Physically, we experience the vibrations in our head and down our throat linking to our vagus nerve. Our vagus nerve brings us into parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for calming us. The vagus nerve continues from our throat and touches each of our organs: lungs, heart, liver, small intestine, kidneys, stomach etc. The vibrations release tension in what we refer to as vagal toning. These practices are often used in a healing capacity from both stress and trauma.
Energetically, the vibrations also connect to our subtle body and more particularly our chakra system. As the sound starts in the lower belly it touches the base of our spine or root chakra. It continues to travel upwards through our sushumna nadi (following the path of our spinal column) and ignites each chakra along its way. Opening up the channels at the beginning of a Yoga class or meditation and quieting them at the end. It is said that OM will find its way through to the chakra that needs it most, stimulating or decreasing the energy as needed.
Finally, the symbol itself. The symbol represents our awakening. The bottom line comes to a point where we slip in to the lower curve representing our chitta vritti or monkey mind. The second curve in the back represents our practice, or the work we do to move our mind through to stillness. The higher curve the includes the final end point as a solid line is our meditative mind. The top line curve sitting just above represents maya or illusion and is a two-way mirror both looking within and without. The dot above is Ishvara, or the silence after the sound. This is important as it represents the resonance that exists or the continual vibrations we no longer hear with our human ears. It is important to honour this moment of silence after every mantra chanted to pay homage to its great power.
I hope this offers a little inspiration to begin to chant OM, or some helpful guidance for your students on why it is important. Try it now. Take a few deep breaths and go, it’s impossible to get it wrong.