"It is through the body that you realize you are a spark of divinity" - B.K.S Iyengar
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What is the Meaning of Om?

Depending on the type of yoga classes you try out, you may or may not have attended one where chanting takes place. If you have then you probably would have heard the sound OM chanted either on its own or in a phrase. Om, also written as AUM, is probably the most common symbol seen and used in yoga classes and gets recited either at the beginning and/or end of a practice. It is a single syllable mantra known as a bija mantra.


Meaning of Om

Om is a Sanskrit syllable that originated around 1500-1200 BC and was noted in the ancient Vedic texts. It is known as a sacred sound encompassing everything and anything. It is the sound of the universe associated with spiritual concepts. It is the merging of our physical body and spiritual being into one, it is the essence of life, the vehicle of self-knowledge. It is believed to reside within us and all living beings, it is that which connects us all to nature and the universe. Om symbolizes and represents a multitude of abstract ideas, here are some mentioned by Iyengar in Light on Yoga:

  • The symbol of Om represents the state of samadhi, with the letters representing the three states of our mind: A the conscious state, U the dream state and M the dreamless sleep state.
  • The three letters represent, speech, mind and breath of life, with the entire symbol representing the living spirit.
  • The symbol represents one whose wisdom is established in the divine and the three letters stand for absence of desire, fear and anger.
  • The three letters represent the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas, with the entire symbol representing one who has transcended beyond the pull of the gunas.
  • It stands for the past, present and future, symbolizing the creator who transcends the limitations of time.
  • Om symbolizes Brahman (universal consciousness) with the letters representing the creator, the maintainer and the destroyer of the universe.

With so many representations we see that this word is very vast and abstract in its meaning, which is why it is used as a tool for meditation, as the meaning lies with the meditator.

How to chant Om

To sound it out take a breath in through the nose and then open your mouth, start with the sound ‘ahh’ at the back of the throat. Then bring the sound forward in the mouth to ‘ooo’ and then ‘mmm’ with the lips closing. You end the ‘mmm’ once your exhalation as finished. Inhale again through the nose and repeat. You can chant for as long as you wish and do as many cycles as you feel you need. I like to do it at the end of a yoga practice in Sukhasana (easy seated pose). Usually I’ll do about three out loud, to really feel that vibration, then progress with each one after that getting softer until I’m doing them in silence.

Benefits of Om

Chanting OM clears blockages in the vocal cords, which will help with opening up the Throat Chakra and improving communication. It helps clear the physical body, the chakras and the auric field of negativity. It is soothing, calming and relaxing, great for reducing stress and anxiety.

Om is a great aid in helping us find that deeper spiritual connection with self and universe when practicing yoga.


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