Om is a Hindu sacred sound that is considered the greatest of all mantras. It is composed of three sounds a-u-m. In Sanskrit, the A and U combine to become O.
Pranayama is the regulation of breath through techniques and exercises.
Vedas are Hindu scripture dating between 1500-1200 bce.
The tradition of yoga includes the devotional practice of the chant. Aum, the simplest chant, is a call for unity at the beginning and end of each class. It is the distillation of all sound. I sat in meditation one day and heard the Aum of the ocean, the Aum of the fog horn, and the Aum of my cat snoring, all at once. Anywhere on earth, if you pause to listen, you will hear the great unifier Aum. Aum requires that we rest in the present moment.
We are vibrational beings.
When we sing together each of us calls forth from within a vibration and merges it with the vibration of others; it is a generous, unifying gesture. Chanting together quickly brings students- who may arrive with individual burdens or joys- to a state of equalizing vibration. We tune ourselves to each other at the most basic level and so announce our intention to practice together.
Physically, the chant clears the lungs, throat, mouth, and sinuses and stimulates essential juice (rasa). Chanting awakens the soft palate, that sheath just under the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. Chanting warms the chest, the area around the heart, and prepares the body for pranayama. The chant will purify the subtle body as well, bringing balance and tone to an overwrought nervous system.
Newton’s first law tells us that energy is neither created nor destroyed. Sound accretes and transforms but never dies. Some of the Sanskrit chants we sing are ancient, dating back to the Vedas. Through the gift of our voices we can harness the energy and intention of yogis who lived several thousand years ago. The vibration of the music exists whether we choose to chant or not, when we take it into ourselves and send it out again through our own channels, we are keeping alive its healing properties.
When a student feels uncomfortable chanting in class, silent participation is best. The vibration passes through everyone in the room.
Music – and the voices engaged in it- has the power to heal.
-Judith Mcclain, 2007