The Benefits of Chanting OM (Aum)
As a certified yoga teacher and certified embodied voice teacher, my favorite part of a yoga class comes with the OM, also known as AUM.
OM is a sound we chant in every yoga class. It is probably the most popular mantra in yoga. A mantra is a chant that focuses the mind in a meditative chanting practice. The vocal vibrations of the mantra resonate in the bony surfaces of the mouth, which focuses the mind and releases a response for the parasympathetic nervous system due to its toning of the vagal nerve.
Sounding stimulates the vagal nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body. It supplies sensory information to every organ in the abdominal cavity, except the adrenal glands. This nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes the body’s response for peace. The peace we feel within literally translates to a lowering of the body’s inflammatory response and an increase in white blood cells and oxygen transfer to the cells of the body. Our cells renew and develop optimal health because we gave them the space to do so. Chanting OM as part of a meditation practice could have extremely valuable health benefits if part of a daily practice.
Some of my students wonder why chanting OM feels so good. I have many theories for myself, but I thought I’d share some information about OM to deepen your understanding of it and appreciate it every time you sound it.
First, OM is spelled two ways: OM and AUM. The second spelling reveals more of the phonetic experience of the sound. OM represents the sound of Divinity. Every time we chant it, it is as if we are connecting directly to God by not only saying his name, but sounding the vibration of which he is the pure essence. Cool, right? But there’s more…
There are four parts to OM—three are sounded and the last is silent. We begin OM by first inhaling. Put differently, we inspire ourselves for connection. We then open our mouth to the most relaxed lip opening we can make without unhinging the jaw: AH. This sound starts in the back of the mouth. As we move towards the small circular lip opening that makes up the second part of the sound—oo—we move through several sounds that track along the length of the hard palate. These vocal vibrations resonate through the hard palate into the skull and through the crown of the head. The crown chakra connects us to God and all that is Divine in the universe. Then we get to the third part of the sound—M. We hum on the M and these vibrations waft up into the sinus cavity and the front of the forehead between the third eye. The third eye chakra opens our intuition to see ourselves clearly in the world. The fourth sound of OM isn’t a sound at all—it’s the silence that occurs as we breathe in again; thus, allowing the vibrations of the first three sounds waft up to God. So, this simple, potent sound connects us fully to the space in our mouth and skull, opens our spiritual chakras, and connects us to God and the universe. It's amazing.
Some people prefer to say OM with a long O vowel and not the AH. That’s fine! If you feel a true circular lip opening as you exhale on the OH, you can channel pure vocal vibration up through the hard palate and feel the same connection through the crown chakra. The M will vibrate the same as the other experience I described; thus, connecting you to the third eye chakra. The silence on the inhalation remains as well.
OM is a powerful mantra and a wonderful tool for meditation. Chant OM several times in a row. Connect with God, find stillness, and feel how God connects with you.