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What does Om mean?

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

If you attended a yoga class or entered into the realm of yoga I am sure you heard about chanting and the vibration of AUM (OM).

Maybe you are someone that loves singing and knows how good it makes you feel so you chanting AUM alone without knowing exactly what it means or why we chant it is no big deal. If you are anything like me, curiosity compels you to know more and why.

I will explain what the symbol and vibration mean and also explain why we chant it, along with some benefits.

Let’s start by explaining what chanting is:

Chanting is the repetitive singing of words or phrases. It can be done with or without musical accompaniment. The words of the chanting may be positive affirmations, thoughts or prayers. Long sustained notes such as the Sanskrit mantra “AUM” (OM) is known as chanting or toning. The repetition is voiced in a monotone sound instead of a melodic singing style. So without trying to sing at a specific high or low note, you simply create an audible exhale and that is your AUM tone.

Why do some say OM and others AUM?

It is very easy to mistake the sound as OM from hearing and also looking at the Sanskrit symbol. There are 3 syllables to this vibration.

Let me explain.

The 3 syllables represent 3 dantians in the body. Dantian means “field of elixir”. It is believed to be the seat of life force energy in the body. Just like the chakras the dantians are the three treasures in the body that sustains life. In hinduism they are connected to 3 gods.

A - Brahma (upper dantian) - related to third eye chakra - shen

U - Vishnu (middle dantian) - related to heart chakra - qi

M - Shiva/m (lower dantian) - related to root and sacral chakra - jing

They represent different things in the cycle of life.

A (Brahman) represents the creation of life (or the unmanifest to manifest). This is situated and the vibration is felt in the lower part of the abdomen when you chant. This is the sexual energy giving rise to life.

U (Vishnu) represents preservation and circulation of life. It sounds more like OE when you chant. The vibration is felt in the center of the chest.

M (Shiva/m) is the destruction or the end of a cycle in order to recreate it. The vibration is felt in the head.

So when you chant it with the 3 syllables you move the energy through all the dantians.

What happens physically when we chant AUM?

There are a lot of benefits to chanting and the first thing I would like to bring to your awareness is that chanting is a form of pranayama (breathwork). You elongate the exhale which means you are stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Every time you inhale the sympathetic nervous system is activated and upon the exhale the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. So it is in constant flux and maintains homeostasis or harmony in this way. When we add a vibrational tone to our exhale we are creating a wave of frequency that ripples through our body. This vibration purifies and harmonizes the meridian lines and energy in our body responsible for transporting life force among other things. The elongated exhale with vibrational tone also stimulates the vagus nerve which leads to a lot of benefits .

The body and the mind are divinely interconnected and not at all separate, so whatever happens to the body influences the mind too. It is very common that the mind is set to a deeply centered and relaxed state when chanting.

What is the significance of AUM? Why not any other sound?

It is said that the vibration of AUM is the frequency of the entire universe. So when you chant this vibration you are returning yourself into the vibration of the universe. Hence the saying exists that you not only exist in the universe but the entire universe exists within you too.

Sound is a sacred power

Most ancient civilisations including Africans, Egyptians, Greeks, Hindus, Native Americans, Tibetans and many more were aware of the sacred power of sound. The ability of sound to elevate consciousness is widely known.

In its pure essence the sacred sound of AUM is known as the primordial sound. The Hindus believe if you put all the sounds of the universe together they will sound like the vibrational wave of AUM. This same sound is called AMUN in ancient Egyptian culture and AMEN in Christianity.

This is the sound of the fabric of the universe. Thus mantra and vibrational chanting is universal and not religious.

Have you ever noticed if you are stressed out or tense that you take a deep breath and sigh the breath out with a tone? Or some people even start to hum. This is a natural way the body relaxes and purifies stuck energy.

In Sanskrit the AUM symbol looks like this and in this picture below you can read about the meaning of the symbol.

This was the inspiration behind the naming of the online classes taught through Divine Interest. Doing yoga online means you will be in the comfort of your own home. I also teach yoga with the intention to guide people back home and because the vibration of our home (as the universe) is AUM the classes are called hAUM. It is like returning home after never leaving in the first place. It's like tuning your radio station (body & mind) into universal vibrations and listening with enjoyment from being and perception.

So next time when the teacher starts chanting in the beginning of the class, feel free to chant along or just be carried by the vibrations. Also remember this when you are stressed. 3 chants can reduce your level of stress by significant amounts and make you aware of the present moment when your mind is trying to explore the past of the future.

Here are some benefits to chanting mantras like AUM:

Physical benefits:

  • Oxygenates cells

  • Massages the body from within

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Relaxes muscles

  • Calms respiration rate

  • Slows down heart beat

  • Helps to relieve chronic pain

  • Increase melatonin and serotonin in the brain

  • Stimulates energy through meridian lines

  • Supercharges brain and increases memory

  • Energizes prana in the body

  • Rejuvenates, glans, organs and cells

Mental benefits:

Spiritual benefits:

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