Monday, February 1, 2010

Chanting Om

- Lisa Goldstein Angerame (Instructor at New York Yoga Hot)

YS 1:27 Tasya Vacakah Pranavah

God is Om. 1

Yoga means union – union of mind and body, the self and the Self, personal and universal consciousness, the individual soul with God. To be one with God is to hear the “anahata nada or Om, which is primal, omnipresent and omnipotent vibration (notice the ‘om’ in omni from the Latin omnis meaning all or universally)…Anahata nada is the unstruck sound, the sound of silence, the sound of the void. You can hear it, but you cannot tell what it is. You cannot miss it, but you cannot make any sense of it. It is that which transforms the world of the senses back into the cosmos of pure energy.”2

In “An Offering of Leaves”, Ruth Lauer-Manenti tells us “Nadam is the sound of God, which can be heard by all when the mind is still.”3 To still the mind is to become quiet, to experience a sense of tranquility that transcends the mundane thoughts of our daily existence. Chanting is a practice that focuses the mind, leading to a still, meditative state in which we are open to hearing the sound of the universe. Chant the sound of Om and be transported to that place.

Om encompasses everything we know as living beings. The sound is made up of three parts –the A, the U, and the M. The A is the beginning, representing birth. The U is the middle, representing life. The M is the end, representing death. To truly experience Om is to experience the fourth part, the state of absolute consciousness (‘turiya’ in Sanskrit), the realm that is beyond the cycle of birth, life and death. It is outside of time and space. It is the hum of the universe that can be heard inside of the stillness after the M.

Begin by sitting up tall and lengthening your spine. Close your eyes and settle your physical body. By diminishing the distractions of the outside world, our awareness turns inward and we become present. Listen as the teacher chants the sacred syllable of Om, changing the vibrational level of the room. Immediately the energy shifts and the atoms in the room dance on a new plane. Our voices become an instrument, an instrument that is tuned to a higher frequency, elevating the mood. Raise your voice and your consciousness in unison with a community of yogis.

Take the opportunity to experience the A-U-M in your body. Sound rides on the breath. Take a deep breath in and feel the vibration as the A begins in your belly. As the sound rises up into your heart, feel the roundness of the lips as you transition from the A to the U. Then feel the hum, the mmm, you create by bringing your lips together for the M, and the sound vibrating in your head. Chanting this sacred syllable is a sweet and gentle way to become absorbed in a still, meditative state. Let the sound waves flow over your body and mind. Allow your entire being to relax and become one with the sound. When the chanting is no longer, hear the vibration you have created, the soundless sound, and the hum that is beyond the beyond. “Om is called pranavah, which simply means humming.”4 . There are no words to describe it; it is energy. It is the entire universe delivered.

To practice yoga is to desire knowledge of our true nature, to experience something beyond the limitations of our own body, mind, and senses. “The growing happiness manifested in the hearts of yogis…through attention to the sound current is beyond language…the Om current. By meditating with this nada, all other sounds are transcended. The yogi is absorbed in the universe of pure vibration…”5

Chant Om continuously. The vocalized sound will end naturally. Be still. In the stillness, hear the anahata nadam, the sound of God. Om.

1 Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti Yoga Chant Book (Jivamukti Yoga School, 2009) 14.
2 Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, Nada Yoga (Baba Bhagavandas Publications Trust, 2007) 9 – 12.
3 Ruth Lauer-Manenti, An Offering of Leaves (Lantern Books, 2009) 18.
4 Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Integral Yoga Publications, 2003) 42.
5 Saravasti, 67.

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