When I ask people who are curious about yoga but reluctant to take a class to describe what keeps them away, the second-most common reason I hear is: “What’s with chanting Om? It’s weird.” (The number-one reason I get is: “I’m not flexible enough for yoga” to which my answer is always “that’s why yoga is, indeed, for you.”)
The practice of chanting “Om” at the beginning and the end of yoga class for someone who hasn’t done it can seem almost as intimidating as rolling out your mat and realizing the pretzel sitting next to you is Madonna.
You can read up on the meaning and tradition behind “Om” and find some very moving and beautiful ancient texts that explain a variety of interpretations. But even if the historical and spiritual roots of yoga don’t resonate, you can still find your own connection to Om.
In the most basic sense, chanting Om allows you to use sound to help you stay in the present moment. Because if you think about it, it’s almost impossible to chant Om and make a to-do list in your head at the same time.
The physical humming of Om also creates a vibration inside your throat, and even your ribcage that resonates as energy. Think of it as fine-tuning a cello so that it can produce the most beautiful sound; in this case, the cello is you. Now imagine what it’s like in a room full of cellos, all playing a single note in unison. This is how yogis warm up with each other. Maybe next time you have a chance to chant Om, it won’t feel distant and strange but will connect you even more closely to your yoga practice, and the practice of those around you.
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