What is OM?
You know it as a mantra that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and at the end of our yoga sessions.
It is commonly sounded out with the vowel A combined with U to make O, and prolonged with a nasal after-sound M and ends in silence.
According to Wikipedia is a sacred sound and a spiritual icon in the Hindu religion. To some, it represents the sound of the universe because everything in the universe is pulsating and vibrating - nothing is really standing still.
When I first started Yoga, I couldn’t understand why we had to OM. I felt uncomfortable because
I wasn’t too sure why I was OM-ing!
I was afraid that it may be against my religion.
It felt weird getting a sound out of my mouth for fear of people hearing my voice!
So I was silent when everyone else Om-ed.
I remembered the moment when I first started getting comfortable with OM-ing - it was at the end of a Baptiste Yoga class, and we were asked to create a “Sea of OMs”. We started the first OM together, then instead of waiting for the others to start the 2nd OM, we joined in whenever we finish our breath, OM-ing at different times so it sounded like waves and waves of OM in the bubble of the space that we were breathing in. You could feel the electricity in the air generated by our sound vibrations, and it completely energized every single nerve-ending in my body and yet the same time, it was rather soothing and calming
The vibrations stayed long after our voices finished; and I could feel the warmth and the love from the people around me; our breath were all connected were all mingling in the air. It just hung around not being instrusive nor is it an uncomfortable silence.
It was then, that I felt at ease.
It makes me feel so connected to others and that we are all together one and the same.
AND when I became a teacher, and when I found my voice, Om became innate within me, became less of a thing I had to do, to just something that happens naturally.
I know some people who abstain from chanting “OM” because it conflicts with their own religion. I have admit that that was me too. But when I think about it, what is OM but a sound created by my voice, signalling the start and the end of practice. It’s like the school bell ringing at assembly, and everybody just gets quiet. You could shout OI 😛 but it is rather disruptive and rude in class. It’s magical that the traditional yoga gurus created this chant, because the sound is soft and unassuming. And if I don't put any expectations on this one WORD and I Om from a neutral non-spiritual space, it just feels Right.
It’s not a chant to be taken lightly , as we have to be respectful to the old-age tradition for those who OM as part of their religious and spiritual practice.
Have you heard the phrase “steal your thunder?” So I’m “stealing” or rather "borrowing" my teacher friends’ thoughts on Om-ing ! Hear their THUNDER!!
So SHOULD YOU OM or not?
Know that Om-ing is not mandatory!
It’s up to you.
Don’t feel like you need to do it because everyone is doing it.
Do it not because it’s cool.
Do it with the right intention and know the why you are doing it so it becomes purposeful.
Do it because you want to do it.
It will take time to get comfortable. And if the teacher doesn't OM or forget to OM, it doesn’t mean your practice is not complete, or the teacher is wrong.
It’s not the end of the world, you’re still here, and there’s a lifetime of yoga ahead of you.
Check out my Tips on OM-ing below!
How to: OM
Next time when the teacher says “Let’s start/end the class with one OM. Inhale first..” And then, your options are:
1) Exhale Normally (no sound) and just enjoy the sound vibrations created by your neighbour.
2) Big Sigh out through the mouth (My FAVOURITE)
4) Chant Mmmm….
5) OM silently in your heart
6) Just do it, say it out loud, be proud and imagine the OM bellowing out like a balloon and reaching every corners of the room, and with the silence, feel the sound surround and melt onto your entire being
Why do you OM? Would love to hear about it. Write in the comments below!