The first yoga class that I ever attended was in Bermuda about 10 years ago. I loved it right away but I was a little weirded-out by the whole Om (AUM) chant at the beginning and end of the class. It seemed too “out there” and “religious” to me. Also, being a Christian, I was wondering how inappropriate to my beliefs it was. But it just seemed what you did and it didn’t last long so I just blundered through it. Since then I’ve been to several different yoga classes which either did or did not do this chanting. Honestly, I did not notice if the Om (AUM) chant was missed because I felt uncomfortable about it. If it was done in the class, I would be glad when it was over! Maybe if I understood it better, I could appreciate it a whole lot more. Here’s what I found out.
What is Om (AUM)?
According to Yahoo! Dictionary it is:
The supreme and most sacred syllable, consisting in Sanskrit of the three sounds (a), (u), and (m), representing various fundamental triads and believed to be the spoken essence of the universe. It is uttered as a mantra and in affirmations and blessings.
Om (AUM) comes from Hinduism and is considered the greatest of all mantras. It represents several important triads:
- the three worlds – earth, atmosphere, and heaven
- the three major Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva
- the three sacred Vedic scriptures – Rg, Yajur, and Sama
Om (AUM) embodies the essence of the entire universe. Indian philosophical belief is that God first created sound and the universe arose from this sound. As the most sacred sound, Om (AUM) is the root of the universe and everything that exists and it continues to hold everything together.
When Om (AUM) is chanted in yoga classes, the theory is that everyone present is tuning their own vibrations to resonate with the sacred vibration of the Universe. The idea is to remind ourselves we are not alone or separate, but that we absolutely belong and are an essential note in the symphony of our universe. Awesome!
The Om (AUM) symbol ॐ is typically displayed by yogis and serves as a means for us to recognize each other (if we couldn’t already tell by the yoga mat and flip-flops!).
I found a lovely explanation of the Om (AUM) symbol at heavenmeetsearthyoga.com:
1 –This curve represents the waking state
2 – This curve represents deep sleep or the unconscious
3 – This curve represents the dream state (which lies between waking and deep sleep)
4- The dot represents the absolute state of consciousness which illuminates all other states of consciousness
5 –The semicircle represents maya (or the veil of illusion.) it separates the absolute from the other three curves
So, after discovering all this, I feel that Om (AUM) is an incredibly awesome thing. It unites those present in class as we practice together. It serves to connect us to the entire universe. For many this can serve as a reminder that we are not alone, particularly on days when we feel lonely.
Om (AUM) is powerful indeed. For an introductory book on Hinduism try:
Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices (Religious Beliefs & Practices) by Jeaneane Fowler
To your health