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The Meaning of OM


If you’ve been to a yoga class, you’ve probably been asked to contribute your voice to the sound of OM at least once or twice. Whether you confidently belt the sound out of your throat, or find yourself whispering it through your lips as you peak one eye open to watch everyone else (yep, we’ve all been there), we could all find some comfort in learning more about what the symbol actually represents. That way, next time your teacher asks you to join in, you can undoubtably rise to the occasion and feel great about rocking it!

Before we delve into the symbolism, it is interesting to note the mantra's number of syllables. Though the spelling of OM tricks us into believing it to be a two-syllable word, it actually has three. The true phonetic sound starts with A or “aaah,” followed by U or “oooh,” and lastly M or “mmm.” What’s so special about three, you may ask? Most belief systems have trinities within their foundation, which exemplifies how we can further relate the OM to many different thought processes. Common notions relate to the mind, body, and spirit; the past, present, and future; or even the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.

It is also custom to think that when we annunciate each syllable, we then pay a visit to each aspect of a certain concept. My favorite explanation of OM deals with time. Take, for example the past, present, and the future: as you release the jaw and express the “aaah,” you acknowledge your past experiences, drawing them to mind and witnessing both times of weakness and strength that have shaped you as a person. As your lips draw together and sound the “oooh,” you then release the past and enter the present, grounding yourself while staying truthful to your current surroundings. As your lips fully close and the tongue is pressing gently on the roof of your mouth to sound the “mmmm,” you teleport to the future, manifesting your thoughts and dreams for what’s to come.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of OM is the silence that follows thereafter -- the subtle yet vibrant buzz of energy that surrounds the body and permeates the mind. Eventually, that energy dissipates, where you are then brought back to your mat and open to receive the benefits of your practice.

OM represents the infinite -- that all aspects of life are intertwined. Without the past we have no present, and without showing up in full gratitude for the present moment, we forbid ourselves the opportunity for a prosperous future. No matter how joyous or melancholy visiting a part of our life in time can be, as we recognize that each instance is fundamental to our growth, we are then able to find our Truth.

And that my dear yogis, is what the OM is all about.

Cheers + Namaste.

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