The syllable Om is first mentioned in the Upanishads, the mystical texts associated with the Vedanta philosophy, originating between 1500 – 1200 BC. Om is considered the mother of the bij, or “seed” mantras — short, potent sounds that correlate to each chakra and are used as parts of longer chants.
In a class or other intentional group gathering, we often chant Om to begin and conclude the event because:
1 – It gathers and focuses the mind, helping to shift us out of our frenetically active mind and into a more contemplative and receptive mode.
2 – It has a unifying effect, both within ourselves and as a larger group. We’re aligning mind, body, and spirit and when we sound om together, we are aligning with one another.
3 – Chanting Om also serves to create a link with those who have practiced before us. It reaffirms our connection to the lineage of practitioners throughout time (sometimes referred to as the Golden Chain).
Even though it’s usually pronounced seamlessly so it rhymes with “home,” Om is made up of three syllables: A, U, and M, or, phonetically, “aaah,” “oooh,” and “mmm.”
In Kundalini yoga, our primal seed mantra is Ong, which means Creator – the Primal Vibration from which all creativity flows It feels slightly different to chant and has a different effect. Because of the way the tongue touches the palette, the pituitary gland activates and starts to secrete. When you chant Ong, you start by making a circle of the mouth for the ‘O’, then for the ‘NG,’ the back of the tongue touches the back of the roof of the mouth. This should create a powerful vibration in the nasal passages that rises up and around the brain, stimulating the 6th chakra.
Many faiths the world over utter a similar syllable. Paramahansa Yogananda says, “Om or Aum of the Vedas became the sacred word Hum of the Tibetans, Amin of the Moslems, and Amen of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians”. In one version or another, it is a universally holy mantra.
This video provides a long soundtrack to accompany a session of chanting, if you feel so inspired:
(up top: artwork by Puu138)