Om is a sacred sound vibration. It is believed to be the sound of the Universe; the first sound. It is pronounced ‘A, U, M’. In every class, every week, I encourage my students to chant Om with me to experience and share this positive vibration.
When I first started yoga a few years ago I used to go to my local gym with the aim of sculpting a six-pack and losing the bingo wings. (The six pack has yet to appear, I think this is mainly due to my love of cheese and red wine… Anyway, I digress.) Very rarely would a yoga teacher introduce chanting Om and if they did I would sit quietly and uncomfortably on my mat and weakly offer up a half-hearted humming pfft waiting for the real work to begin. My experience of yoga began to change over the years and in summer 2015 I found myself at Anand Prakash Ashram, Rishikesh, India where I later returned to qualify as a yoga teacher. The teachers at the ashram were warm and supportive and at the start of each class, they would belt out an Om from their boots embracing the sound and creating an encouraging atmosphere to join in. So I did – in each class for 17 days, twice a day. After a few classes I confessed to my fellow ashram dwellers somewhat superficially that ‘I love a good Om’. And I still do. However, my understanding of Om, of the power of chanting only became clearer to me during my yoga teacher training.
I love the feeling of sharing a strong Om in a room of people, the safety and warmth of the environment and the lack of ego involved. My Om often appears in many forms – it can be a rather flat sounding Om or sometimes a wavering wobbly Om which takes a moment to settle on a solid note. Regardless of this I now set it free without embarrassment. Through this simple sound, this simple practice, I began to connect to the inner sound and the feeling of the vibration of Om from my belly, to my throat, the inside of my mouth with the ‘m’ vibrating through my lips. I realised that each time I chant Om it brings me to the present moment. I also find that a loud full throated Om obliterates any distracting thoughts or feelings lurking within. This ability to still my mind (albeit temporarily) helps me bring my focus inwards rather than glumly checking out the heels of my neighbours in downward-facing dog. (My heels still do not touch the floor some 4 years on. Hari Om!) Yoga is a personal experience and there is no obligation to chant Om or any mantra for that matter. However, I encourage you to try, to have an open mind, and explore the weird and the wonderful within yoga. As my journey continues, I shall happily continue to chant the sacred syllable of Om with an open heart and a soft smile.