Why We Chant OM in Yoga Class

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

Learn the meaning and power behind the sound "om" and what it means to your yoga practice.

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, (or seen a parody of one) you’ve heard the chant of “Om” at the beginning and end of class. Maybe you even chime in with the rest of the class, but do you know what it means?

I used to awkwardly chime in, feeling worried that folks around me would hear my voice, or worry that I'd chant off-key. It wasn't until a few years into my practice that I felt connected to the sound, and confident in my chant. Whether you join in or not, a lot can be gained from simply being around the chant of Om.

First, let’s talk a little bit about Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is the ancient Indo-Aryan language, and is the liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Today, it is mostly used to read the ancient sacred texts. Sanskrit was named the “God’s Language” stemming from the belief that the Hindu god Brahma passed this language to the Rishis, who then spread it on Earth.

No matter your beliefs, Sanskrit is seen as a highly influential language. Many modern day languages are in some way derived from Sanskrit, including modern English.

“Om” is a Sanksrit word, and sacred sound, that translates to “Supreme”. Om is the sound of the universe, or the sound of creation. The vibration created during the sound Om is the same vibration of everything in nature. When we chant the sound of Om, we are entering that vibrational frequency, and becoming one with all in the universe.

When chanting “Om”, we make 3 sounds: A-U-M and a silent vibration. Thus, “Om” actually has four parts. More importantly than the sound of Om, is the feeling. When chanting Om, you should feel the vibration throughout your body.

A - “Ahhhhh” - vibration in the abdomen

U - “ohhhh” - vibration in the heart

M - “mmm” - vibration in the head

Silence - stillness

The sounds of Om/Aum represent the 4 parts of the conscious mind:

A - Waking State

U - Dream State

M - Deep Sleep State

Silence - State of Pure Consciousness; Bliss

The chanting of these sounds is key to your journey of connecting your own consciousness with the universe.

“Yoga” means “to yoke” or “to join”. When chanting Om in class, we are joining our own consciousness with that of the world around us.

Next time you chant Om, pay attention to the vibrations you make, and how it makes you feel. Do you feel calm? A little more at ease with the world around you?

Any yoga teacher will tell you that you don’t have to join in. If chanting is out of your comfort zone, then sit quietly and listen. You can still feel the vibrations from those around you.

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