It seems to be everywhere, this om, but what does it mean? You may have heard it ringing in your ears post-savasana in yoga class, seen it emblazoned on a workout top or even stuck on the back of a car in front of you in traffic as a bumper sticker, right above the stick-figure family decals.
Simply, om is the energy buzzing in the air around you this second, the particles that make up the Milky Way and the rustle of leaves on the other end of the planet from where you’re sitting right now. Om is the basic sound of the universe and all that is.
What Om Means as a Mantra
The sound itself is actually made of three Sanskrit phonetics: aa, au and ma. Combined, they make the sound aum that serves as one of the most powerful mantras. In fact, om is so significant that it has a presence in many ancient Sanskrit texts, prayers and songs.
The purpose of a mantra is to quiet your mind and help guide you fluidly into mediation. The activity of thinking of nothing can be quite the challenge, considering the average person generates about 70,000 thoughts in a day – even while you sleep your brain is constantly grinding its gears. That’s a lot of noise to cut through, which is why focusing on repeating one mantra can be so effective.
Repeating a mantra over and over has shown to have a powerful effect on your mental state. Since thoughts drive emotions, learning how to harness your thoughts through the method of meditation allows you to control your mood, as opposed to letting your environment and situations lead your thoughts. Mantras can be whatever you’d like them to be, in whatever language you choose. You could try today, I choose gratitude, or I am in charge of my own happiness, or the all-encompassing om. Try it and see how you feel.
What Om Means in Yoga Class
Yoga, which dates back more than 5,000 years (though some would argue much longer), is intended to unite the mind and body as one. Om in most yoga class serves as that final clap, combining everyone’s voices and vibrations into a single sound – to consciously acknowledge the present moment.
The vibrations of the sound itself unite the main chambers containing your body’s seven chakras. Aa comes from deep within your belly and base of the spine; au can be felt in your upper abdomen and chest; ma rises up through your throat and skull.
What the Om Symbol Means
The Sanskrit symbol can be broken down into five parts:
Next time you make the sound of om, feel how it affects each part of your body and spirit. Likewise, whenever you see it in symbol, you’ll instantly share the connection with the individual or space around you!