Many yoga classes include the chanting of “Om”. Chanting is a branch of yoga known as “Mantra Yoga”, where we utilise the power of vibration to create internal harmony and raise our consciousness. Have you attended such a class, but have been too shy to join in the chant? Or are not sure why we should chant “Om” or how to go about doing it? Then see below, where we shed some light on:
- Why “Om” occupies a very special place in yoga
- The physical, mental and spiritual benefits of this chant
- How to chant “Om”
Significance of Om
There are many interpretations of what Om stands for. Below we provide a few examples:
- Om represents the fundamental energy of vibration behind all of creation, inside and around every aspect of this universe.
- The lifecycle of the universe is mirrored in the chant of “Om”:
- Om represents “what was”, the silence before the chant begins, mirroring the silent void before the universe came into being
- Om also represents “what is”, the initial sound as the universe comes into being and is later sustained.
- The chant finishes in silence, representing “what will be”, the return of the universe back to the silent void.
- As a sound, it is the equivalent of white light: just as white light contains all the different colours, “Om” contains all the sounds within it.
- Spiritually, it is a portal that can connect us to the Creator of this universe, like “Amen” in the Christianity, “Ameen” in Islam and “Hum” in Tibetan Buddhism.
Benefits of Chanting Om
- Chanting “Om” sends vibrations through the whole structure of the thoracic cage and cranium area, reaching into the deepest parts of the heart, lungs and head. You can feel this if you place a hand on the sternum (breastbone) and another hand on your crown as you chant. These vibrations bring about several benefits:
- They stimulate the alveoli in our lungs that are in contact with the air, leading to better exchange of the gases with the bloodstream. The resulting richer, cleaner blood means that more oxygen reaches the individual cells and there are less toxins circulating in the body.
- They reach deep-lying tissues, increasing blood circulation to the organs and stimulate the endocrine glands, which help to maintain equilibrium in the body by controlling metabolic rates, temperature, blood pressure, etc.
- The act of chanting slows the exhalation rate down, helping to calm the nervous system. This can be very useful in practical situations. Next time you are stuck in a traffic jam and becoming impatient, try chanting “Om” a few times and see how quickly it helps to calm you down:-)
- Chanting also harmonises the energy flowing in our body, picking us up when we are lethargic and calming us down when we are over-excited.
- It is very effective at bringing our minds to rest, as our consciousness is occupied by the sounding of ‘Om’ and we cease that constant chatter within ourselves.
- It helps to expose the qualities of our soul, making us feel more calm, peaceful and content.
How to chant Om
The simplest way to chant Om is to start with a long ‘oooooo’ and then close the mouth to make the sound of ‘mmmm’ until you have expelled as much air out of the lungs as you comfortably can.
A more detailed breakdown of this chant is as follows, with equal time/emphasis on each of the four audible sections:
- Make a deep “Oooo” (‘o’ as in “torn”) from base of spine/abdomen, with the mouth open in clear “O” shape.
- Follow this with “oeeeaaaa” (‘ea’ as in ‘heard’) as the sound moves up to the chest area.
- An “eannngggg” as you close the throat area, which is where the sound reaches in this stage. This is a subtle transition stage between the “ea” and the “mmmnn”.
- Close the mouth to get a nasal “gmmmmnnnn” sound. Encourage the stomach and abdomen to be drawn in during the final stages of the chant to draw maximum air out of the lungs.
- Silence is the final part as you exhale the last of your breath, then pause, relax the abdomen and inhale slowly.
Some teachers suggest that we chant Aum in the way it is comprised of its syllables, with the sounds “aaa”, “uuuuu” and “mmm”. This is slightly different from the ways we have suggested above. Our reasoning here is that when we listen to authentic Sanskrit chanting, the sound of “Om” starts with the sound of “Ooo” (as in “torn”), as opposed to the sound of “aaa” (as in “car”). Any sound of “aaa” at the start of the “Om” chant is very short and subtle, and therefore barely noticeable.