While chanting Om is not something that is done at each class offered at Lilananda, it is something that you have probably heard chanted at the beginning or end of a yoga class. Like many others, you’ve likely wondered what Om means and why we chant it? That’s a really big question! In this “Elements of Yoga” column, we’ll provide an introductory explanation to its meaning.
First, Om is a vibration or a sound, not a word, so there is no literal translation to English that we can look to for explanation or meaning. Om is a bija or seed mantra. And, what the single-syllable seed mantras lack in syllabic complexity they more than make up for in meaning. Om is considered the seed of creation – meaning it is the vibration of the energy that created the entire Universe. As the seed of creation, Om represents God, the Source of creation, or Universal consciousness. If we even begin to ponder this, we won’t be surprised to learn that when used as mantra, Om is tremendously powerful because it unto itself represents the power to create everything.
If you’ve chanted Om, you’ve probably been instructed that it is a single syllable comprised of multiple sounds: a-u-m, pronounced “ah”, “oh” and “mm”. The sounds are sequentially pronounced on a continuum without separations between them. Likewise, when we chant Om there is not an abrupt ending, but rather a slow and subtle trailing off to silence. Each of these component sounds, as well as the silence that follows, have deeper spiritual meaning… but we’ll save that for “Elements of Yoga” OM201. Suffice it to say that through chanting Om, silently or aloud, you may come to experience your connection to the world around you, to yourself as you function in your life, to others in your life, to your Self with a capital “S” – a being that was created by the Divine, to all beings and matter created by the Divine, and to the Divine itself. The sense of Oneness becomes more and more apparent the more we explore Om.
In meditation, we can use the mantra Om to be less affected by the everyday ripples of life. We can use it to connect to ourselves, to each other, and to God. And, since it represents all of Universal creation, we also can use it to organize our own intentions, thoughts and actions in order to create.
I invite you to contemplate these levels of meaning as you chant or meditate the mantra Om, whether as part of a yoga class or in your personal practice.