om symbol

If you have practiced yoga for any length of time, you are likely familiar with the sound of OM. Often chanted at the beginning and/or end of class, OM is a seed mantra, or a one-syllable chant. Possibly the quintessential Sanskrit mantra due to its vibrational nature (Sanskrit being a vibrational language), OM is just as much vibration as sound. It is said to be the sound of the creation of the universe. “This whole world,” says one ancient text “is nothing but OM.” OM is the symbol of the highest vibration, the purest energy—that which connects everything in existence.

The repeated chanting—also called mantra japa—of OM allows you to not only hear and think about the sound of OM, but upon repeating, you begin to merge with the vibration of the mantra, incorporating it into your being in a way that, simply put, makes you feel at one—with yourself, with the universe, with nature, with God—with whatever higher power you believe in. By chanting OM, the mind becomes present.

Although usually written as OM, the mantra is more accurately written as A-U-M, for the sound of “o” is formed by the combined sound of AU. The chant is actually more like: ah-oh-mmm. The letter A represents the waking state, where we begin. U symbolizes the dreaming state, through which we all pass. And M represents the inner mind, which is accessible in fleeting moments. Importantly, the silence between each OM is as important as the sound, and is described in the Maitri Upanishad as, “tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrowless, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, immovable, immortal, unshaken, enduring.” Isn’t it true that moments of silence amidst beautiful sound can be the most powerful? These seem to be the moments when life’s beauty sinks in.

When chanting OM, the breath is the driving force behind the sound. Let your inhalation be deep and full so that your mantra carries strength and length. And remember to notice the pause between each OM. Feel every sound and feel the space between the sound. Feel the vibration within you and about you. Feel the connection created by the sound itself. OM.