meaning om

The Meaning of Om

Clara Hayes

The depth of the Yoga practice can often seem never-ending. As a yoga instructor, this is what truly excites me and keeps me coming back. You can practice and study for years, and still there’s so much more to learn! How incredible is that? To honor the depth of this practice, learning some yoga philosophy is an important act of respect. Let’s start with one piece at a time. Today’s philosophy 101 is all about Om! 

The popular symbol for Om is seen everywhere now. But where does it come from and why do yoga teachers chant it at the beginning or end of class? The syllable originated in the Vedas between 1500-1200 BC and is used in mantra, which is part of Bhakti (devotional) yoga. It is a symbol said to embody the divine energy, sometimes referred to in yoga as Shakti energy. Om is the sound of the vibration of the universe and within Om are all of the sounds in the universe. Om actually contains four syllables pronounced A-U-M. The fourth syllable is the silence after the Om. 

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So why does Om feel so good to chant? Well, when you chant, you begin to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is quite large, starting in your brain and running down your spine. The vagus nerve is partially responsible for the regulation of your parasympathetic nervous system. That means when it’s time to tap into that “rest and digest” mode, your vagus nerve is there to help send those signals throughout your body that you’re safe and sound. 

Try chanting Om the next time you’re turning inward for meditation practice, stuck in traffic or to close out your practice! Keep us updated on how it makes you feel!

For more information about Om, check out the following links! And stay tuned for more yoga philosophy lessons on the blog!

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