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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Days 14 and 15 of 21: No Place Like Om

 So this is a two-for-one post to catch me up. I will more than likely post for a extra day to make up for missing one.

I want to focus on how I've been practicing the Om chanting with my classes and compare the effects to that of affirmations, so here goes.

In my in-person yoga classes at the libraries I don't often include Oms because it's a non-sectarian, very secular environment and I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable with a Sanskrit, more traditional yoga based practice. We have people coming in from many different backgrounds and as we are providing the classes for free, on public property, it's important to make sure no one feel intimidated by the content. Occasionally I have asked students if they wanted to practice with the sound of Om and when they were open to it, we did. 

In classes I do online from my home I can be more in control of my content, so I have been (as you have read) incorporating more meditation, more philosophy, more traditional "yogic" information. This information authenticates the experience of yoga for me, and therefore I find it important to share. I enjoy the  sound of voices in unison reverberating through a room, ringing in the beginning and end of a group practice in harmony. 

I have been part of many different types of Om practices: single Oms, multiple Oms, rolling Oms (where one group of people start, and others join in at various points, one group always starting as another finishes, for a few minutes until the lead signals all voices to come to quiet), silent Oms, Chakra toning, Oming chants with recordings. They all serve different purposes and can have different effects on the practitioner. 

I introduced my two online classes (the Chair Yoga for Seniors and the Special Needs Chair Yoga) to the the practice of chanting three Oms aloud as a group at the beginning of class, following by a few moments of silence, as a means of celebrating and formally starting a practice.

I began by explaining what the sounds of the Om are (Awe-OO-MMM), and where in the body they move (from chest to throat, mouth/head, lips). Also that the sound moves from the back of the mouth to the center and to the front palate.

I read some passages of interpretation about the Om (that it represents Birth, Life, Death, and Rebirth), and how it is described as the primordial or most basic of sounds.

To assist understanding, I suggest everyone think of a song they love, and a reason why they love it, and/or the emotions that come up when they hear that song. Then they should think about if they are moved to sing or hum along with the song, and how they feel when they can participate in creating the sound of the song. The power of the Om is like that - participating in creating the sound connects us to the song of the universe, and we can start to notice how we feel/react to that simplest of sounds.

One of the benefits of doing the class via Zoom is that no one had to feel self conscious Om-ing in front of other people; everyone was able to keep their microphones off so that only person that heard them chanting was themselves. It's an opportunity to get comfortable with the practice on your own. Later this week I will offer both classes a chance to turn on their mics and Om with me aloud (I'll post the responses to that).

I often think someone might still have reservation about "chanting" thinking it's a religious thing or that I am asking someone to say words invoking something they don't understand (in fact, one person did ask me exactly that). To put everyone minds at ease I am always very specific about explaining what Om means ("source") and humming is also a perfectly acceptable substitute. I also like to point out, for those that have their own faith-based practices, chanting "amen" might be more familiar, would work with the exact same intention (amen means "so be it"), and have similar vocalizations (ahhhhhhhhh-meeeeeeeeehhhhhhnnnnnnn). Some speculate that "amen" may have derived from "om" or "aum" as well (see reference).

I lead the chant three times, and this correlates to the sounds A-U-M, also to the three states of consciousness: waking state, dreaming state, and dreamless sleep of spirit. The entire word represents the fourth state, samadhi (full awakeneing), and that is our silence after we chant. 

How do I feel when I Om? Buzzy. Awake. Sometimes, if I'm emotional, it can cull from me tears as I sound through the lengthened exhale. But always Alive and Aware. I try to create the sound in different place in my body; sometimes my sinuses, sometimes, my belly, just to see where I can place the vibration, or where it wanders if I'm not mindful. 

It feels weird to be chanting alone. The silence afterwards can be startling. I miss hearing the voices of others ringing out harmoniously after I've stopped. Even after the fifth or sixth time of this resurrected practice, I still anticipate hearing others when my humming stops. The more I guide the practice for others the more I build my confidence, and try to find the beauty in that quiet, content rather than seeking. I've been asking for feedback to see how others are feeling. Some are responding that they find it calming. One gentleman was not a fan, saying he very comically stated that he felt like a sick cow, and we all giggled. I reassured him that there are no wrong feelings and he might find nice easy breathing more to his liking next time (he smiled broadly). 

I guess, if anything, Om is Moo backwards.

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