What is OM in Yoga

OM with leaves

You decided to check out a yoga class and you are sitting down on your mat in a comfortable meditation position as you begin to chant “OM” and you begin to ask yourself, what is OM? You might start to wonder what is it about OM that makes yogis and yoginis chant this two letters with so much passion and intention?

Om is the eternal sound, the sound of the universe, the primal, core, profound cosmic sound, and it creates a vibrational frequency of harmony in the body. OM aligns our energy and creates a feeling of openness and expansion as well as unity and love.

OM symbolIn Sanskrit, the word OM is made up of the three syllables A-U-M. The sound “O” is a diphthong written as “AU”.  Each letter represents the 3 divisions of time or psychological states, and visually, the symbol OM consists of three curves, one semicircle, and a dot. The large curve at the bottom symbolizes the waking state or A, the middle curve signifies the dreaming state or U, and the curve at the top is the symbol for the deep sleep state or M. The dot is the fourth state which symbolizes the transcendental state of consciousness also known as Turiya. The semi-circle at the top, which separates the dot from the other three curves, represents Maya or the veil of illusion.

When chanting OM I can consciously feel the “A” sound as it originates from the back of the throat opening the heart. As the “U” sound glides from the openness feeling created by the “A”, “U” is felt in the navel or abdomen region of the body. And finally, the “M” sound is felt in the region of the head as my mouth fully closes.

Just like when doing physical yoga asanas, I find chanting OM can be energizing and calming as it moves the life force to integrate the three main centers of the body-mind (head, heart, and navel) into its inherent wholeness – all the while consciously breathing in time with the chant.

Fractal-UniverseWhether I am chanting OM at the beginning or at the end of yoga class, or in a meditative setting, or in the midst of everyday life, I can really feel the impact this mantra has when I deeply feel its meaning. It’s such a primal sound prior to everything and anything that as I begin to tap into its essence, which is nonseparate from the universe, consciousness or myself, I can really just let go and tacitly know that OM is all there is.

Before OM, there is silence and after OM there is silence, but silence still exists while the sound is uttered because OM really helps to tune-in into that silence like no other sound does. Silence feels to me like the ever-present, timeless nature of existence or consciousness itself, because consciousness doesn’t have any sound yet is present and aware at all times.

Next time you hear the OM chant or you are invited to chant it, I hope you can find its calming and energizing nature too. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be happy to respond.

Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

Why are Headstand Poses So Challenging?

Yoga Headstand

This is a question I have had for many years, and I have been avoiding headstand poses any way I could. In a few occasions, I stopped attending some really good classes because they included headstands or handstands and I simply was too scared of even trying them.

When I began to take yoga classes in my current studio, I started trying some classes that also encouraged them but I began to get more curious. I simply watched the students doing them and some of us just rested on the baby pose or tried the preparation steps to the headstand. I was getting frustrated as I knew it was all just fear that drove me to avoid the pose, and I felt the little I was attempting was not going to get me far. However, I did know that at least my body was getting a tiny taste of what it involves to do a headstand.

One day, as I entered the studio to get ready for a yoga class  I saw a poster regarding a headstand workshop. I immediately signed up. I was both scared but excited to finally be properly instructed in a pose that I had become so afraid of.  I had no idea what to expect as I knew how terrified of trying it I was, but deep inside I knew I wanted to learn it, to transcend that fear that was keeping me from discovering something wonderful and new.

The two-hour workshop was really good! We started with breathing exercises which are important to do as it is necessary to remember to breathe deeply during the headstand pose.  They also help to relax your body which is important as well. I learned what poses are best to warm up the body and stretch the areas that need to be stretched for headstands:

  • Sun salutations
  • Warrior I and II
  • Forward bends

Yoga headstandWe were then taught the steps to prepare ourselves for the headstand. The way you position your elbows and hold your hands on the floor was really useful to understand so that you can support your neck and be relaxed during the pose. Keeping your shoulders back and down because the tendency is for them to relax in the wrong position and so your back is not supported properly. I also appreciated knowing that I could bring in my feet towards the head with my knees bent if I needed to. That allowed me to begin feeling the pose more as I got as close as I had to and then I could get my legs up beginning with the knees.

With the help of the instructor, I was up against the wall and breathing with it and remembering all the little but important details. I tried it several times but I couldn’t get myself up alone so the instructor would help me a bit and reminded me of a few things. Then I just stayed up there playing with my core strength and trying to separate from the wall a few inches. I then would gracefully lower my legs down.

I felt the teacher’s support and instructions were paramount to my ability to transcend the fear I had – though not completely gone, I was able to relax on the pose and feel happy.  So why did I think it was so challenging? I think I just needed to really understand the pose and be in a place where I felt safe to try it. Without the basic understanding and preparation, I think the body just contracts itself and the mind shuts off any impulse you might have to open up for a new challenge.

I hope this post inspires you to learn and/or try headstands in your yoga journey and please feel free to share your adventures with this wonderful yoga pose below in the comments area.