I used to roll my eyes and keep my mouth zipped tightly shut whenever an instructor in a yoga class invited us all to chant "om."
TBH, I didn't understand why the dude with the beard and mala beads across from me looked like he was in pure ecstasy while he chanted, and I couldn't ever imagine being on that level of #spirituality.
Nowadays, you can catch me hollering "om" like it's my damn job (well, I guess as a yoga teacher, it kind of is my job).
If you feel awkward AF chanting "om" too, you're certainly not alone, and I'm here to tell you why this mantra, as weird as it is, is so important in the practice of yoga.
Let's start with the basics.
"Om" is a mantra that originates from Hinduism and is known as the primordial sound of the universe.
This sacred mantra is said to have extreme spiritual power, and it can be recited by anyone and everyone.
Yep -- "om" chanting party at my house, everyone's invited.
Since it's a simple two letters, you might think you know how it's pronounced, but it should actually sound more like "aum."
And then, to mess with your head even more, "om," or "aum," actually contains four syllables to pronounce.
The first syllable is the "a" sound, pronounced from the back of your throat as "awe."
The second syllable comes in the "u" of "aum," pronounced as a long and juicy “oo."
The third syllable is basically the sound you make when you see food porn -- "mmmmm."
Close your eyes, and allow the third syllable to vibrate around your mouth and your lips.
The last imaginary syllable? The complete and beautiful silence that represents the infinite space of the universe.
After your classroom of yogis is finished chanting, this silence can be incredibly profound and even more meaningful than the chant itself.
Sit in stillness, and feel the sacred energy and power the mantra instills.
What is that "energy" you're tapping into, though?
The characteristics of Shakti are creation, preservation, and liberation. This trifecta is what makes the mantra so incredibly powerful.
"Aum" is the basic sound of the universe -- everything that surrounds you, and that is within you, is embodied by this sound.
By chanting it, no matter how timidly or confidently, you reinforce and recognize your connection to all living beings, the Earth, and the expansive universe.
If these spiritual, universe-y vibes aren't really for you, that's totally OK.
Science says, "om" actually has a physical effect on the body, as it slows down the nervous system, calms the mind, and even releases toxins.
When your mind relaxes, your blood pressure decreases (something that also occurs in meditation), which leads to better heart health and a happier you.
So give "om" a try at your next yoga class. Close your eyes, find your center, and be sure to pronounce each syllable with vigor and heart.
Before you know it, you'll be the one with the long beard and mala beads adorning your neck.
Or, maybe not. You know what I mean.