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In my first yoga class, we Om’d and yes, I thought it was strange, I felt a little embarrassed and self conscious, and I pretended to join in with a silent Om, whilst making a mental note that this was all far too weird for me!
If your reaction was the same. Worry not. This doesn’t mean yoga isn’t for you, or that yoga is too woo on the woo-woo scale.
Let’s get in to what Om means and why we chant it at the beginning and end of class.
When pronounced correctly Om is actually AUM. Aum consists of four syllables: A, U, M, and the silent end syllable. Symbolically the three letters embody the divine energy (Shakti) and it’s 3 main characteristics: (1) creation, (2) preservation and (3) liberation.
All sound is a vibration, both within your body, and as a noise wave you create and put out in to the world. The vibration within your body impacts your nervous systems, and tells your body it’s safe to relax and become calm. So Om-ing switches on your body’s relaxation response, and therefore the host of physical, mental and emotional benefits that come with this.
When you chant Om you’re putting a vibration out in to the universe. Everything in the universe is vibrating and nothing is really still, and these different vibrational frequencies can be measured. The vibration of everything in nature is 432 Hz and this is also the frequency of an Om. So when you chant Om you are symbolically and vibrationally tuning in to everyone else in the class and the universe, and acknowledging your connection to all other living things and nature.
Still skeptical of whether sound – and something as simple as an Om - can unite us?
Think about singing at football matches, concerts or around the campfire. There is something incredibly satisfying and connecting about belting out songs as a group. As humans we have a primal connection to sound and using it to feel connected with each other.
Om-ing in a yoga class is just another way of doing this. I always find it fascinating that the Om at the end of the yoga class is often more united and choir-like than the Om at the beginning. After an hour of moving and breathing together, we become more united, and it shows in our Om.
I now Om loud and proud. As someone who can’t hold a note and was deeply self conscious about singing, this is a big deal. But Om-ing gives me a sense of liberation. I don’t care what it sounds like, and I Om freely. When I Om I have to get vulnerable and go beyond my ego, and do something outside of my comfort zone, which is empowering. Every time I blast out my Om, I remind myself that there was once a time when I sat in uncomfortable silence, and this gives me confidence and pride in expressing myself.
It can even feel powerful. When I notice others around me not Om-ing it helps me to own my Om even more, and this instills leadership skills: Leaders liberate others, and there is a hope in me that by showing I don’t care, that it inspires others to feel the same. I hope that maybe Om-ing is infectious ;) … Or at least that feeling liberated is.
So I encourage you to embrace the Om and have some fun with it. If you’re still hesitant, no worries. If you feel Om-ing is not for you then just notice how the room feels different after a chorus of united Om. See if you can sense the vibration of the sound in your body as it moves around you.
If and when you’re ready, give it a go. Take a deep breath and just enjoy the experience of making noise as part of a group of people.
If you're interested in knowing why we do the things we do in a LLiV Yoga class, check out these blogs:
Why we sigh, groan and roar in yoga
Why we say Namaste in Yoga
What Makes LLiV Yoga Different
Why we activate our feet in yoga
Why there's such an emphasis on breathing in yoga
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