Have you ever been in a yoga class and wondered, why do we chant OM? What is it? And what does it mean? The simple answer is that mantra is a practice common in Yoga, and OM is the most commonly practised of those mantras.
OM is both a sound and a symbol. It is traditional for us to practice chanting the sound at the beginning and end of yoga practice. Why? Because here OM is being used as a seed mantra. As a seed holds the knowledge of the mature grown tree, so a seed mantra holds the true potential of our infinite creative consciousness. By chanting the sound we bring the vibrations of its meaning and energy into our present
Mantra practice can be very powerful. For some people practising OM it is simply a way to focus at the start of a class. It helps them detach from their journey, the conversations they have just been having, and connect with their personal intention for coming to practice, shutting out distractions and centring. It is also a lovely way for the group who are practising to unite their energy and join together to honour each others presence.
It is not important to understand or believe the meaning or history behind the practice for you to participate in chanting. Many of us feel awkward to begin with. My advice is take a few breathes and give it some welly, there is no need to worry, we are all doing it! And, like everything in Yoga, if it does not feel right for you just don’t do it. There is something quite liberating about chanting like a crazy yogi though…
A Little Bit Of History and Philosopy.
All quotes used here are from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda – 1:27
Many of us yoga practitioners believe OM is the sound of the Universe and represents God, or the Divine.
As the sound of the universe OM is the cosmic vibration running through all things (and I mean ALL things!) By chanting it we are inviting its vibration to connect us with the infinite and divine.
OM is actually split into three letters A, U, and M. “A is the beginning of all sounds. Every language begins with the letter A or “ah”. A is pronounced by simply opening the mouth and making a sound. That sound is produced in the throat where the tongue is rooted. So audible sounds begins with A. Then as the sound comes forward between the tongue and the palate up to the lips U or “oo” is produced. Then closing the lips produces the M. So the creation is A, the preservation is U, and the culmination is M. So A-U-M includes the entire process of sound, and all other sounds are contained in it.”
As OM is the root of all sound and vibrates through all things it also represents God. “God is, was and always will be – without beginning or end, infinite and omnipresent.”
For many of us God is not a religious icon. Rather an awareness of a force greater than ourselves which can guide us and support us. With faith we can cultivate a relationship with the divine, and access the divinity within ourselves.
The practice of chanting OM is not a religious practice or religious belief. Yoga is often associated with Hinduism, but as Sri Swami Satchindanada goes on to explain. “the bible says, “In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And the Hindu Vedas say, “The name of Brahman is OM, and OM is Brahman.” He is making the point that other religions share the concept of sound being the seed of the universe, and that the seed is represented as God. He also notes that “Amen”, or “Ameen”, are both sound variation of OM and are used by Christian, Jews, and Muslims alike.
Today yoga practitioners come from all walks of life and religions beliefs. There is something about yoga which transcends religions and rules. It is very appealing to those of us who simply want live a positive healthy life. It gives a wonderful framework for self exploration and is a great platform on which to cultivate a greater understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Some practitioners enjoy using mantra, and OM, as part of their practice.
For more information about Mantra take a look at my previous blog post here!