Om! Aum! The Sound and the Meaning!

When I first started practicing yoga I took a class.  We opened with sound of om and then again sealed in our practice with the sound of om.  I remember thinking to myself, “what is om and why are we doing this and more importantly how can these people hold this for so long?!”.  Years later I still practice yoga, and still open and close my practice with om. And yes, I can hold it for much longer now.  Recently though a few people have asked me about Om.  Why do yogi’s use it and what does it mean?

Let’s start with the definition of om from the Yoga Journal:

Om: the original mantra symbolizing the ultimate Reality, which is prefixed to many mantric utterances

Om is actually the Western spelling of the word.  In Hindu it is spelled Aum.   Aum according to ancient Indian traditions preserved in the Upanishads, is the sound from which all thought and speech are derived.   Thus, it expresses the ultimate reality.

A yoga teacher once told me that Aum is the sum of all of the sounds in the universe.  If you combine all of the voices, the sounds of machinery, the sound of nature, and all other sounds it would sound like the reverberating vibrations of Aum.  Aum contains all sounds.

The three sounds of aum represent creation, preservation and destruction according to yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar .  In his book Light on Yoga he says,

“The letter A symbolizes the conscious or waking state,” Iyengar says, “the letter U the dream state, and the letter M the dreamless sleep state of the mind and spirit.” The entire symbol, Iyengar says, stands for the”realization of man’s divinity within himself.”

Aum can also be traced through many religions.  The Tibetans repeat hum, the Moslems repeat amin, and the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Christians repeat amen.

According to Yogananda,

“Audible utterance of aum produces a sense of sacredness…however, real understanding of aum is obtained only by hearing it internally and then becoming one with it in all creation.”

Aum begins with the sound of silence.  The A sound begins deep below the throat, in the belly.  The U sound is made by the reverberations within the belly. And finally the M sound is produced from the nasal noise.  Aum closes with a sound of silence.

Within the chant we take ourselves from the present state, through the dream state and into the state of spirit and mind within ourselves.  The silence takes us beyond that.  Aum allows us to have the sight and feeling of one-consciousness in all things.  In other words, aum allows us to be one with reality.  Aum includes all potentialities and possibilities, it is what was, what is and what is to be.  During the chanting of aum our minds move through the opposites of sound and silence until there is no sound.  Our minds hold a single thought of aum until there is no thought. If aum is repeated correctly and in the correct intonation it will resonate and reverberate throughout the body so it will touch our inner selves or our souls or atman.

My yoga teacher told me that repeating aum will help to build your diaphragm and help you to learn to control your breath.  As you practice and repeat aum through chants you will begin to strength your diaphragm and control your breath so that your chants can be louder and held longer.  I’d have to agree with her because the longer I practice the stronger and longer my aums are becoming!

If you practice yoga but don’t open and close  your practice with the sound of aum I’d suggest you try it, I find it helps to calm my mind and center me so that I can have a mindful practice!

Have a wonderful weekend! I hope you are all getting in some runs, races and yoga practices!

Do you practice yoga?  Do you include aum into your practice? Did you know the meaning behind it?  Does it help you to center yourself for a mindful practice?  If you don’t include aum, would you now try to include it?

Sources:
http://www.yogamovement.com/resources/aum.html
http://www.speakbindas.com/meaning-of-word-om/
http://hinduism.about.com/od/omaum/a/meaningofom.htm
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7 thoughts on “Om! Aum! The Sound and the Meaning!

  1. SaiSahoj says:

    Om is an universally chanted mantra which has its origination in the Hindu spiritual texts. We can hear it being said in almost every Hindu ritual. But what we fail to understand is why it is chanted and how it should be chanted.

    The sheer beauty of the Om mantra is the link it has with the universe. Interestingly, when Om is chanted, the frequency at which it vibrates is 432 Hz. It is exactly the same as the vibrational frequency of all the elements present in nature. What this basically signifies is that we are spiritually and physically in harmony with the world we live in.

    Another thing that we have to keep in mind is that in order to create the correct vibrational frequency, the mantra has to be enunciated in the right manner to reap the benefits. OM is pronounced as AUM and it mainly consist of 4 syllables. A,U,M and silent syllable.

    The first syllable A is pronounced as a prolonged ‘Awe’, U is pronounced as a sustained ‘Oo’ and M is recited as a prolonged ‘Mmm’. Finally, the silent syllable is nothing but a deep silence that extends to infinity. During the chant, different parts of our vocal box is activated creating a different part of the throat to vibrate. Overall, the syllables of AUM is said to embody the divine energy which we commonly refer to as Shakti.

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  2. AP says:

    This is amazing and extremely informative. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    I am new to study and chanting of “OM” and have a few questions, posting it here hoping to get some advice from some senior members.

    1. Is there a best time of the day to chant OM ? I usually do it in the evenings.

    2. I heard different recitations of OM on the internet, how do I learn the right way to pronounce this ? What are your thoughts on (www.soundofom.in). Personally, I found this to be very relaxing. But I want to make sure its the right way of chanting.

    3. Is there any benefit to just listening to the chant of “OM”, whenever I cannot chant myself ? Like during work, etc ?

    Thanks in advance and please keep up the great work.

    Like

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