In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali introduces us the sound of the universe. It is the sound of OM. In some translations, OM is God’s voice.
Chanting a mantra is one of the most profound and effective tools for turning inward and quieting the mind. There are many mantras, but none is as well-known as the single syllable OM.
The sound of OM is so much a part of yoga that we see its symbol everywhere. The symbol for OM, which is also the symbol for the third eye chakra, appears in yoga art, on yoga mats, and on yoga clothing.
In Yoga Sutra 1.28, Patanjali tells us we should chant the sound of OM with full understanding of its meaning.
What does OM Mean?
OM is the vibration of the universe. The most effective way to chant it is to allow the sound to resonate up from the root chakra through the crown of the head. You’ve probably had the experience of hitting the “OM sweet spot.” It’s awesome, especially when a room full of yogis chant it in unison and in harmony.
According to Chopra Center Master Teacher Roger Gabriel, this universal vibration—the sound of OM—is akin to what Westerners call the big bang. “Science tells us that the Universe began with a big bang, whereas Vedanta says that the big bang is actually a big OM.” This sound, Gabriel says, “didn’t just happen once; it is ongoing.” He describes the “big OM” as the sound of the universe experiencing itself.
If Roger Gabriel’s description seems a bit vague and difficult to grasp, don’t worry. The power of OM is best understood through experience. Chanting OM is more useful than trying to explain what it means.
What do you experience when you chant the sound of OM?
For many new yogis, joining in when the class chants OM can be intimidating. If it feels awkward at first, it’s okay to listen until you’re ready to join in. But do join in when you’re ready. Participating in the chant is a more powerful experience.
To really experience the vibration of the universe, OM should be chanted in four syllables, including a silent syllable. The sounds are: A-U-M, or ah-oo-mmm. The best way to learn the chant is to work with a teacher so you can hear the sounds.
As writer and yogi Elena Moroz Alpert explains, chanting OM is more than an invitation to begin or end a yoga class. When we master the chant, the sound connects us to the source of creation. It “reverberates from the pelvic floor upward through the crown of the head, filling the body with pulsating energy that simultaneously empowers and radiates tranquility.”
Sounds like something worth experiencing in, doesn’t it?
For me, chanting OM helps me connects with my fellow yogis. It also centers me and helps calm my mind. What about you? What’s your experience with chanting the sound of OM? Let us know in the comments!