Project 25: Sing Om like you mean it in yoga class – a lighthearted introduction from a new teacher

Little Om courtesy of  Betsy Traub Photography

I like singing ‘Om’ at the beginning of classes that I go to. It is part of the routine of some classes and I hope to make it so in my own class. Singing Om brings you to the present moment and celebrates our being together. Being part of the routine, often, it may not get much instruction time. So if you ever wondered why do it? What does it mean? This is your lucky day. And I hope I can help you get over any shyness over adding your voice to singing OM the next time the opportunity arises.

Sanskrit symbol for Om, from a necklace of mine.
Om is actually A-U-M sounds that blend together and the silence afterwards. Iyengar, in Light on Yoga calls AUM the highest praise, and the best prayer. Om comes from the same root as omni and includes the idea of wholeness. It has many meanings, for example, A represents the waking state of consciousness, U represents the dream state of consciousness and M represents the deep dreamless state of consciousness and the silence afterwards is the integrated wholeness of all states. Another meaning of OM in the same form of trinity plus one is the forces of creation, sustaining forces, forces of destruction and wholeness that contains all. I have a friend and teacher, Swati Fernando, who could give a workshop just on the topic of OM and I hope she does soon. She could fill you in on opening the throat chakra and using bandhas and more. I would love to learn more too.

It came to my attention that we already say the sounds that make up OM all the time and often when words are less suited. Think of a relaxed ‘AAAAH!’ when you lie down on a goldilocks perfect bed, the ‘OOOO!’ when appreciating a thing of beauty, and the ‘MMMMMM’ while savouring a bite of chocolate. Or think of the sounds we make when we admire, hold and smell a tiny perfect baby.

Saying Om at the beginning of class is my prayer reminding us to relax, appreciate, and savour our connection to our “inner radiance and inherent goodness”, our wholeself, in this yoga class and always. The phrase “inner radiance and inherent goodness” is a lovely turn of phrase that I learned from Judith Lasater and it seems to me that Om is the song of our inner radiance and inherent goodness. 
For the hesitant, why can’t OM sound similar to the Aaaah-Oooo-Mmms of our daily speech sometimes? Sing it with one note, maybe more than one, or even with a tune and make it your own, play with it. Still with reverence, but play with it. There are many examples of Om sung in recordings of chants from the deep deep voices of tibetan monks, to the light ethereal angelic sounds of artists like Deva Premal. When your heart is in it, it is sung correctly.
Some tips: Exhale fully, inhale and turn the next exhalation into an OM.
Let the AAH.. come from the navel and blend with the OOO… vibrating in the chest which blends with the MMM…resonating in the head and notice slience that follows before repeating.

On a playful note, OM is close to OMG, in sound and meaning.
One meaning of OM is a wholehearted and sincere “OMG, the whole world is a awesome”.
Which made me think that even though Om is sometimes called the seed sound  of the universe, many thousands of years ago it was a new thing. Some teenagers started saying OM and adults must have responded by saying, “Kids these days…in my day we just said EHHH! and that was good enough.”
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