At the end of each yoga class, I generally say the same thing- Take a moment of gratitude, and feel in your heart what you are grateful for. Then I close the class with one OM, offering people the option of joining me in the OM after the inhale, if they are so inclined.
Sometimes, if I have a new student, I'll explain a little bit about the OM... but there is so much more to know about this sacred sound than my 1 minute elevator speech covers. I first want people to feel comfortable trying it out- so I say there is no real "right" way to chant the OM. My little white lie is one way to get people to not worry about it so much and just try to get the sound out of their body. Fear keeps us from doing so many things in life... Is it really that big of a deal if you croak out the wrong sound for OM in a room full of yogis? Well... you can be the judge of that one. But you will never know how to do it until you try.
The second thing I tell people is that the OM is not a pledge to a certain religious order, and you are not cheating on Jesus or Moses or Mohammad or whomever else you are devoted to. You decide for yourself what you want to believe about sacred and other such rituals... like making the sign of the cross or avoiding walking on cracks less it will break your Mother's back.
The power of the OM is in the vibration. This vibration becomes even more powerful if everyone is belting it out at the same tone (I'm not a music teacher, so I'm not sure if tone is the correct word to use here, but you get my point right?)
And the very best part of the OM (in my opinion) is the quiet that comes after the last person finishes the OM. Taking a few breaths in silence, being mindful of the transition- closing your yoga practice slowly and mindfully- and not just rolling up your mat and running out the door to jump right back on the hamster wheel.
There is more to the OM than just my 1 minute elevator speech. And I'll attempt to tell you a few more things that I know, and then link you to more info at the end of this blog...if you'd like to go down that rabbit hole.
OM can also be written as AUM. AUM is actually the sound that you are trying to make as you chant the OM. When you start with the A part of the sound, attempt to feel it coming from the lowest part of your voice- as if it's coming from your lower body and you are pushing it up and out of you from your belly.
The second part- the U- brings the sound into your chest. Then close your mouth for the final sound- M. Let the sound resonate in your head, close your eyes and feel the vibrations in your body. I don't know about you- but when I was a kid, I used to put my ear right next to the speaker so that I could hear the sound, but also feel the vibrations in my body. Our world (the whole universe) is filled with vibrations... every atom in every molecule is vibrating. Vibrations can be powerful, and then can intersect and they can cancel each other out, and that's as far as I'm going to go trying to explain the power of vibrations.
There is something about being in a room full of people chanting the OM. It's magical (or it CAN be magical- it's certainly been terrible before... when the OMs don't sync up). But it's something fun to practice at the end of yoga class, and it has a very ancient and important history in both religious and cultural practices in India and surrounding areas.
The sound is said to be a C#, and is (according to some) the primordial sound of the universe. I'll defer to people who may know more about this than I do. For me, it's a special practice that calms and centers me and when practiced with others, can feel like a way to make deeper connections.
The symbol OM is also unique in that the shapes that make up the symbol each have a meaning. As I learned it, the three loops that make up the main shape stand for our three states of consciousness- which could be thought of as conscious, unconscious and dream states. The little dot represents ultimate connection with the source, nirvana, enlightenment or whatever else you want to call it- some sort of transcendance. The small semi circle guarding the dot is our ego... always getting in the way.
If you would like more on the OM symbol and the roots of origin and spiritual meaning please click here.