Om, pronounced as ‘AUM’ is a mantra or Sanskrit sound hailing from Hindu philosophy. It was believed to be the original sound of the universe - first there was nothing, then there was Om, and then everything – in fact, you could think of it as the sound that started the big bang! It is a cosmic vibration that represents the “All” – All of everything in the universe, the vibration of oneness.
Without getting too deep into Quantum Field theories (it’s a little deep for a yoga blog) it is now almost universally accepted that all particles that make up matter are vibrating. In yoga, we believe that the vibration of the Om has the same frequency as all of nature. By chanting it out loud, it radiates and connects us to everything around us and each other. The chanting of Om has been proven to benefit the mind and body by bringing peace, calmness, tranquillity and serenity throughout. We also believe that it has uplifting qualities. The vibrational sound when recited allows us to go within and as a result of this, it brings us closer to true nature and grants us the ability to connect with all other beings and the universe.
On a physical level, Om may also provide great health benefits such as slowing down the nervous system, calming the mind and helping us to produce a meditative state. When the body slows down and begins to enter this state, blood pressure decreases and restores health and vitality back to the heart. A decrease in blood pressure may also lower your risk of blood clots, stroke, heart disease, dementia and kidney failure.
So, the question then remains, is it Om in particular or just the chanting of any random sound that has this affect? A study by researchers at Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, India found that listening to the chant of Om activates the areas of the brain involved in emotional empathy and relaxes the parts of the brain used in everyday functioning. Interestingly, an MRI showed that there was not the same results found when listing to chanting of the word ‘Tommmm’. Sad news for all the Tom’s out there ;)
So how do we chant it? There is no specific pitch, volume or length for the perfect Om. Instead, find what feels right for you. Take a nice big inhale to fill the lungs, and then on the exhale, try chanting the O (‘au’) for a count of 3-4, and the m (mmmm) for a count of 7-9. ‘Auummmmmmmmmmmmmm’.
So the next time an Om chant arises in a class you are attending, either join in with the chanting of Om (now that you know what it is all about), or at the very least, allow the vibrations to wash over you. There is nothing to say that you have to take part, but at the very least try not to be too scared off by it. It may be just the thing you need to hear in order to create a feeling of oneness, to bring you more in touch with your surroundings, to balance out your asana practice and to gain the feeling of peace and calm that our yoga practice is all about
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