What is OM a.k.a AUM?
The dictionary definition of OM describes it as a mystic syllable. It is considered to be the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. It appears at the beginning and end of most Sanskrit recitations, prayers, and texts.
Yoganand Michael Carroll, dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga said – “It’s big. Om is nebulous, and it’s vague. It can mean almost anything.” Very well quoted by him, as the word indeed is a mystery. It has no specific meaning, yet is identified with a lot of things. It cannot be explained with clarity, yet has a powerful and clarifying effect on the body.
Om seems to have been first identified from the sacred texts of Hinduism – Upanishads. It is made of three syllables: A (aaah), U (oooh), and M (mmm). Experts believe these “syllables” can represent trios like – heaven, earth, and the underworld, OR the Hindu gods – Brahma (creator god), Vishnu (sustainer god), and Shiva (destroyer god). Some scholars believe that it’s “symbol” is connected to lord Ganesh, the Hindu half-elephant god who removes obstacles, because if you squint, you can see his round curves and graceful trunk represented.
Why do some people meditate to the sound of OM?
OM is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. It is said to have a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants, and also its surroundings. It’s sound is known to be calming for the nervous system. It is a way to touch the purity within ourselves. According to Bhavani Lorrain Nelson, who is the creator of the CD series Meditation Made Possible – “When we sound Om together, we’re aligning body/mind/spirit; we’re aligning with one another; we’re aligning with the universe because it’s the sound of the universe and we are referencing something real.”
Since Om is the sound of the universe, it helps us feel grounded and helps acknowledge our connection to the universe. It’s calming effects on the mind and body help us tune in with our inner self. Creating this calmness within helps us set our intentions and prepares us for our yoga practice. Since yoga (yuj) means “union”, chanting “Om” during the practice helps in the process of unification. It is a way to detach ourselves from our everyday chatter by accepting to set this time for ourselves, and to care for ourselves. Click To Tweet
Why do yoga sessions begin or end with chanting OM?
Yogis believe that chanting it at the beginning of the (asana) physical practice will help clear our mind of negative energy and enable us to approach our practice with a clean slate. It is a way to detach ourselves from our everyday chatter by accepting to set this time for ourselves, and to care for ourselves. It creates a better ground for us to set our own intentions.
And chanting Om at the end shall enable us to connect with the new energy created during the practice. When chanted with everyone at the end of the practice, it shall help create a sense of unity within ourselves, with others around us, and with the universe. In essence, it will help seal the benefits of our practice!