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OM: What Is It & Why Do We Chant It?

Last updated on February 20, 2020

Om is a mantra that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. With roots in Hinduism, it's both a sound and a symbol rich in meaning and depth. When pronounced correctly, it sounds more like "AUM" and consists of four syllables: A, U, M, and the silent syllable.

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How do you pronounce om?

  • The first syllable is A, pronounced as a prolonged "awe." The sound starts at the back of your throat and you stretch it out. You will start feeling your solar plexus and chest vibrating.
  • The second syllable is U, pronounced as a prolonged "oo," with the sound gradually rolling forward along your upper palate. You'll feel your throat vibrate.
  • The third syllable is M, pronounced as a prolonged "mmmm" with your front teeth gently touching. You will now start to feel the top of your mouth vibrate.
  • The last syllable is the deep silence of the Infinite. As intelligence rises from the deep silence, you have to merge your chant from the M to the deep silence.

Symbolically the three letters embody the divine energy of Shakti and its three main characteristics: (1) creation, (2) preservation, and (3) liberation.

Why do we chant it?

Everything around us is pulsating and vibrating—nothing is really standing still. The sound Om, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. As such, AUM is the basic sound of the universe, so by chanting it, we are symbolically and physically acknowledging our connection to nature and all other living beings.

Physically, the act of chanting can also relax the body1, slow down the nervous system, and calm the mind. Lastly, chanting AUM is a way to open and close a practice—to delineate it from the rest of our day and designate it as a special time in which we care for ourselves and practice being mindful.

All in all, beginning and/or ending your spiritual practice with AUM can help you connect to it in a deeper way.

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