If you ever visited a yoga center, you have probably started with, or relaxed at the end of the session, with the mantra Om (ॐ). But have you ever wondered what it means and where it comes from?
The Sanskrit original word for the westernized “Om” is AUM, and it is described, among other ways, as the original sound. The sound that was born with the universe. Its three letters represent creation, preservation, and destruction. When done properly, the Om sound created by our own throats resonates from the pelvic floor upwards through the crown of the head, filling the body with vibrant energy that empowers us and, at the same time, radiates tranquility.
In addition, it is said that the Om mantra increases self-awareness and concentration in your most intimate spiritual world.
It is important to learn the correct way to chant the Om mantra in order to fully enjoy its benefits.
First of all, let’s learn its correct pronunciation. It has three syllables: A-U-M. It begins with a nasalized vowel [a:] that transforms into [u:] and ends with a long and vibrant [m]. Om is pronounced in a single deep exhalation: a-ā-u-ū-m-(ng)-(silence).
Now that we know the phonetics of Om, let’s move on to the visualization or the feeling of each sound. To sound the first two syllables, open the mouth wide as if you want to swallow the whole universe. When you start chanting, imagine that the first vowel (“a”) appears around your bellybutton, and the sound waves irradiate to your pelvic floor and your lower chest.
Then it grows towards the second syllable, slowly moving the place of the sound to your throat, and allowing the sound to massage your heart, thymus, and thyroid on its way up.
Finally, gently close your lips for the final syllable [m], allowing the sound to move from the throat up. The vibration of the [m] sound then resonates within your skull, massaging your pineal and pituitary glands, until it finally reaches the crown of the head.
The movement of the mantra Om through your body is often associated with the chakras, or energy centers and their colors. So, you can also practice visualizing these colors when you chant: inhale through the back of your body to open those places where tension is locked and then visualizing Yellow, which is the color for the Manipura chakra where Om is originated. Then green (heart), sky blue (throat), indigo (third eye), and purple (crown of the head) when the sound travels up.
It is believed that the power of the Om mantra is so great that even staring and taking in the Om symbol (ॐ) can exert a positive influence. You can even chant the mantra in silence, in your own mind to regain calmness!
Pronounced or written, the Om mantra is one of the essential aspects of yoga and one of the most important stages for the understanding of yoga. I hope you enjoy this practice. Just try to chant it 24 times in a row to see the benefits!