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The Universal Sound Vibration Om & Udgeeth Pranayama (Om Chanting)

Updated: May 27


Om Symbol

MEANING AND INTERPRETATION OF THE MANTRA OM AND ITS SYMBOL


The vibrant resonance of the creative force/power, which resides in all of us, unites us and binds us to nature and our essence.

This is what the sound of om means to me; a sound that originates and resonates both from within and beyond myself. Of course, this is one of many interpretations; as it is often the case with language, there is a rich history and meaning behind this small word.


The syllable om is considered to be the first sound that emerged from creation: the original sound. From its sound, the universe came alive, its vibration resonating and lingering in every living creature thereafter, which is why om is often referred to as the universal sound vibration.

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, om is a sacred sound which has been used to mark the beginning of ancient texts, prayers and invocations for thousands of years. In more recent times, it was made popular in the west within the practice of yoga where practitioners are often invited to chant the mantra at the start and the end of the practice, as a way to centre oneself but also to promote relaxation, a meditative state and union within oneself and with others. As the original vibration from which all other vibrations can manifest, the syllable (and symbol) om is considered to be a powerful –if not the most powerful – mantra to chant or meditate upon.


Although it is very common to see om written o-m, in some instances it can be found spelt a-u-m, reflecting its phonetic composition of the three letters. In this form, the triad is said to reference many concepts such as time – past, future and present –, creation – conception, preservation and destruction –, as well as the three realities – the waking state, sleep state and dream state. The latter concept is echoed in the curves which make up the symbol for om (made well-known by the rising yoga movement of the past 50 years). The larger lower curve represents the waking state (conscious), the upper curve the sleep state (unconscious) and the middle curve the dream state (subconscious). The dot is the merging of all three states where everything dissolves to make way for a state free of time, space and duality; a state of deep knowing and calm acquired when one sees the unity and harmony between all states that is revealed when the veil of illusion – illustrated by the crescent separating the three curves of the material world from the dot of the enlightened Self – is removed. Om is a symbol of absolute, oneness and Self-realisation.


The facts I have chosen to share are only a few from the multitude of information available regarding the origin, meaning and interpretation of the symbol and the mantra om. Regardless of which one resonates with you the most, the shared belief is that om carries a strong energetic force.


UDGEETH PRANAYAMA - AUM CHANTING


Sanskrit root: ud meaning above, upwards, forth

geeth meaning chanting, song

Aum chanting is also known as Omkari Japa or Omkar.


Udgeeth pranayama is a yoga practice whereby the mantra om is repeatedly and rhythmically chanted in order to experience its effects on the body and mind. As explained previously, om is considered to be a powerful vibration, and the chanting of the mantra holds many benefits:


  • It connects us to our divine essence and its infinite potential for creativity and self-realisation

  • It clears and calms the mind, alleviating the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression

  • It soothes the nervous system, helping with sleep disorders and insomnia

  • The conscious and mindful chanting of om as it is written phonetically – AUM – lengthens the breath, therefore increasing lung capacity and strengthening the muscles involved in breathing (diaphragm, intercostal muscles...)

  • The regular practice of om chanting has been scientifically proven to reduce HBP (high blood pressure) and to positively impact cholesterol markers (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9663516/)

  • It boosts concentration and memory

  • When I practise udgeeth pranayama, I feel grounded and spacious; I experience great serenity



PRACTISING AUM CHANTING


In this practice, we first chant each letter of the phonetic spelling of om separately three times, followed by the mantra altogether (as in AUM) nine times.

Find a comfortable position, seated on the floor, on a chair or lying down. Close your eyes, bring your focus to your breath, refraining from changing or controlling its rhythm. Let yourself be gently soothed by each inhale and exhale for a few breaths

Bring forward the image of the letter A rooted in your pelvis, inhale deeply to chant the letter A three times, visualising the letter reverberating in and around the area of the pelvis.

Imagine now the letter U forming around your heart, inhale deeply to chant the letter U three times rounding the mouth.

Elevate your inner gaze to the head where the letter M appears, inhale deeply to chant the letter M three times.

Now for the entire syllable, nine times. When you chant the syllable, merging the sound of the three letters, visualise the sound of the letter A emerging at the base of the spine in the pelvic floor region from deep within the earth, the letter U expanding in the chest and heart centre and the letter M both culminating and dissolving in the head and beyond. Sit up tall if seated, inhale deeply, AUM nine times.

Let the vibrations linger in your entire body and observe whatever comes up. Breathe. Soften.


NOTES


The practise above is one of many ways of chanting the mantra om; experiment with the number of times you want to chant the mantra, chanting it out loud or letting the vibration be within.

Alway listen to your body and adapt any practise accordingly.

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