Om is a remarkable word, sound, utterance. It is a mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, resonating for thousands of years across the universe. There is something powerful in the single syllable, in the vibrations it triggers. Without fail, the sound waves of an “om” chant bounce around the room and return to bring calm, focus, centredness to me.
In my yoga class, we say it at the beginning of the class and then again at the end. I’ve noticed a difference in the quality of my “om” in these two bookends. At the start of the class, my mind is inevitably distracted. Since I’m doing yoga on the weekends, I bring a frazzled energy with me, piled up from the week. Unending demands, unpredictable life events that must be coped with, and a general stress on mind and body result in a scatteredness to my being by the time I show up on Saturday morning.
So, when I say “om” over a long breath to initiate my practice, it is discordant. The sound from my throat is uneven, falling up and down into an unmelodious pitch. I try to blend with the harmony of the rest of the class as I don’t feel strong. My voice is small. My “om” is tentative, cowering from the world outside, whimpering inside a shell.
And then, I practice yoga for the next hour. With each asana, I shed the distractions. As I hold a pose, my mind comes back in sync with my body. They fall in line together, no longer fighting, no longer pushing and pulling each other in an exhausting struggle to dominate. My mind once again falls in love my body and showers attention to it, wanting to be together, pliant and frictionless. By the end of the hour, there is an essential strength to the way my body moves, led by my quietened mind. Energy flows, there is a grace to my movements.
The “om” at the end of yoga class is coherent, stable, steady. My voice has vigor, I choose a single note that has all the melodies contained within it. “Om” sounds sweet, gentle, generous. I am out of my shell, eager to play with the universe, as it should be.