Why do we chant OM? by Lauren Prince

Lauren Prince image by: http://vanillaclouds.com/

The Sacred Sound
The Supreme Mantra

We’ve all been there, right? The yoga teacher leads us to the end of our practice and offers us the opportunity to “seal our practice with the sound of Om.” Do you get excited? Do you join in just because? Or do you wonder WTF does that mean?! Who are these kooks singing Om to? Maybe you want to join in and sing along, but you just don’t know what it means.

The Universal Sound of Oneness is most often the quick explanation yoga teachers give before we inhale and exhale to Om. As a new yoga teacher, I have come to realize there are simply not enough minutes in class to explain all the things you want to such as the physical cues for Tadasana, the energetic scoop and lift of the low belly, or the mystery that is the bandhas. The clock starts out moving too slow then all of sudden it’s moved too fast and I’m thinking “Holy Shhhhhhhavasana!” There certainly isn’t enough time to give a thorough take on what exactly is the meaning of the small but mighty sound, Om. In the following paragraphs I’ll tell you why I chant Om and what a way more qualified man has to say on the Sacred Sound that is Om.

Community. I chant Om because of the magical connection I feel with my friends as well as people I’ve never met. Our world is crazy. Always has been and probably always will be. When I’m in the midst of a sea of vibrational harmonies I feel like everything is going to be ok. I feel like we’re all best friends working towards the same goals for the greater good of our beautiful, crazy world. Everything is going to be ok.

God, the name for the Universal Life Force, is worshipped in different forms by every religion and faith. The name we use for our God does not matter. The dedication does. If you believe in a higher power, the Divine, then chanting Om can be a symbol that represents your God. The Sanskrit term Isvara Pranidhana means surrender to God or devotion to a higher power. TKV Desikachar (son of yoga royalty Sri T Krishnamacharya) died in 2016 but not before he wrote a book titled The Heart of Yoga. In the portion of this book regarding the Nine Obstacles on the Yoga Way, Desikachar says that with the Sound of Om we say everything. From The Heart of Yoga:

“If we analyze OM as it is written in Sanskrit, we see that it is made up of A, U, M, and symbol representing resonance. So OM has four aspects. The first is the A, a sound that comes from the belly, is formed in an open throat, and is voiced with the mouth open. As with many alphabets, A if the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet. The second aspect is the U, a sound that is formed in the middle of the mouth. The mouth is not as wide open as it is for sounding the A. With the third sound, M, the mouth closes. The sound rises from the nasal passages, from where the resonance, the fourth aspect of OM, issues forth.” Desikachar continues his analyzation by stating “When I sound A, I must open my mouth, which stands for the process of creation. U symbolizes the continuance of creation, which is constantly renewing itself. M symbolizes the end and dissolution. Following the M, the sound carries on a while. This sound has no alphabetical symbol to represent it. We can therefore say that Isvara is not only that which can be expressed in words, but also that which cannot be expressed in words. This is the full meaning of OM.”

God is Omniscient, or all knowing. God encompasses all knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. Desikachar wrote that “The Upanisads (original yoga texts) say that A represents the waking state, the U the dream state, and the M the state of deep dreamless sleep. The fourth state, sounded in the resonance following M, is samadhi (bliss). This parallel points to the one who stands behind all four states, the only one who is truly awake; Isvara (highest divine being). There is One who is present in all these states, One who never sleeps and never dreams, One who is always awake, always watchful, One who knows about everything and yet is beyond everything. If I repeat OM with these ideas in the back of my mind, I will gradually become immersed in Isvara and my mind will become so saturated with Isvara that I will become very still.”

Isn’t this one of the reasons we practice yoga? To find the inner stillness within us and learn how to take that stillness off the mat into the beautiful, crazy world?\

If the spiritual aspect of chanting Om makes you want to run for the hills, then consider the physical benefit of chanting Om. By externalizing the internal sound of the vibration that lies within each of us, we have the power to awaken dormant energy. This helps us move from the thinking mind to the feeling mind. It just feels good to FEEL!!

Alternatives to chanting OM are to sound out Aum, sound out Ohhhhh, or Mmmmmm to get the yummy vibration in your chest, or even Shalom, a Hebrew word for peace. We could all use some of that, amiright?

Exploring the symbol Om and the power of sound can serve us in a variety of ways. Creating a sense of community or universal oneness, surrendering to a higher power spiritually, or actually feeling your inner vibration awaken with the sound are all good reasons to sing out the small yet mighty sound of Om.  After all, Om is where you heart is. Or where you hang your cowboy hat. Or your yoga mat. Namaste y’all!


THANK YOU and Namaste to Lauren Prince. LP is a long time yogi yet wet behind the ears yoga teacher in Brunswick and Saint Simons Island, Georgia. She trained at Asheville Yoga Center for her 200 hour credentials. Laughter and Sláinte!
 LP image by: http://vanillaclouds.com/


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