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The meaning of Om

You may have started and/or finished off a yoga class with a collective “Om” but perhaps felt a little awkward as you didn’t really know what you doing, why you were doing it or what it all means.  If so, then hopefully this post will (pun intended) enlighten you somewhat!

There isn’t a singular definition for “Om”; in fact it’s quite hard to define as many spiritual concepts are. We use “Om” as a chant in yoga as part of a ritual to connect with each other; creating that sense of oneness and harmony and focusing the mind. As well as the spiritual meanings behind chanting, the physical effect of making the Om sound with its vibration through your body has a very grounding and calming effect. Om is often referred to as the “sound of all sounds” reflecting in the concept of all-encompassing.

Om is pronounced seamlessly but is actually made up of three syllables – A, U and M – so phonetically we pronounce it as “aaah”, “oooh” and “mmm”.

It is all about the sacred threes. Om first appeared in the Upanishads, a collection of sacred texts that inform Hinduism and there are many significant trios including:

  • Heaven, earth and the underworld
  • The Hindu Gods – Brahna (creator), Vishnu (sustainer) and Shiva (destroyer)
  • The waking, dreaming and dreamless states
  • The past, present and future
  • All that was, all that is and all that will be

If we look at the visual representation of Om, we can see that the shape embodies each of its syllables, the three is the Sanskrit letter for "ahh," that same three with the mini S on it is "oooh," and the bindhi and half-moon at the top are the "mmm.

So, next time your teacher begins a chant, don’t shy away from it – embrace it, go with it and see where it takes you.