Sometimes, people are "turned off" by chanting in a yoga class. And if people even a yoga class can't seem to get it, what does everyone else think? Recently during a webinar training I asked Amanda Correa, E-RYT 500 about how she deals with introducing mantra to an all levels class. She replied that she briefly explains what a mantra or sound vibration is, what kind of a frequency/feeling it produces for her, and that if someone isn't comfortable saying it with the class, just to silently observe the effects of the powerful sound immersion. Just take the opportunity to notice what arises, and this is where the real practice of yoga begins.
I have had many people ask me the same question about one sound in particular, "OM", probably the most universally recognized (and trendy) of all mantras and symbols. My intention here is to hopefully clear up some misconceptions about"OM", and share from my own direct experience. This will be brief compared to the nature of the subject... but as Buddha said, "The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step."
You see, mantras don't always have a direct translation, rather they are the experience of something. OM can be broken down intellectually, analyzed, and written about, yes, there's value to that but it's a limiting approach in my experience, compared to the depth available when you take the time to be present with and feel into the mantra.
Wait a second, what is a mantra exactly? Webster puts it like this,
Mantra- (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
Chanting could be considered an invocation of a very special frequency. One tuned in to a "spiritual station", one that will connect us with our Highest Self, with our Highest Nature. From this space we become good instruments to serve others selflessly and realize our own innate Wisdom.
I remember as a kid, seeing one of my friends close his eyes and in a very stoic and focused way begin to hum, "OMMMMMM". I guarantee you that we were never exposed to this sort of thing at the private school we attended but still somehow knew about this sacred sound and its calming, balancing properties.
OM is a mantra, or sound vibration, which is very powerful, and is also used to initiate other mantras. OM is used in a yoga class setting, most often, to bring an uplifting vibration to the room, unite participants with that space of Love and Peace within, and on a physiological level, brings balance to the hemispheres of the brain. It is everywhere and it is within everything. If you were to sit very quietly, with a stillness penetrating deep beyond even the internal sounds, you would reach a vibration within that is OM. All of the Saints and Sages, from different parts of the world have accounted for and verified similar experiences.
OM, according to "Sutras of Patanjali" Book 1:27, is the mystic sound that is the embodiment, experience, and fullness which is God. In Swami Satchidananda's commentary he says,
"There are hundreds and thousands of names for God, but none convey the exact idea of God. They may help us picture or conceptualize one aspect of God, but not the Fullness, the Limitless Nature of God. God is, was and always will be- infinite and omnipresent. Such a Great One should have a great name, that through even repeating the very name manifests God in you. The name "chair" may remind you of a chair, but you can't sit in it. "Sugar" reminds you of something sweet, but you can't taste it. God's name should denote the Fullness, represent God and also bring God to you." Sounding out OM is one way of achieving this union.
Repetition of a mantra (or positive affirmation) can be a great aid in developing concentration, and clearing obstacles on your path during meditation and other breath-body practices.
At first I wasn't so sure about all this mantra business, but I tried it and stuck with it. I continued to research and practice it. Slowly, as I nourished this seed that had been planted, beautiful things began to happen, I would find a little peace, some respite in between thoughts. Other times, profound experiences arose working with the mantra. Now it's become less about me focusing on or "forcing" the mantra, rather, it finds me! I'll be doing some kind "mundane" activity or task, landscaping, painting, chopping vegetables, going for a walk, doing laundry, driving, etc. and that sound or short phrase will start up again. The mantra always finds me when I need it most, and it is a magnificent tool for training the mind.
I hope this text finds you well, and full of Love.
Blessings of Peace and Love,
OM Shanthi -Peace-
Bryan Josiah Nupp, RYT 200