Have you ever heard the word “mantra”? Maybe you’ve heard it and had no idea what it meant, but it can be a helpful thing to practice. A mantra is basically something you say to yourself, and saying certain things can actually help the brain. “Mantra” actually means “sound tool” in sanskrit, so it can even just be a meaningful sound.
You may have heard people in a yoga practice say “Om” or “Aum” at the beginning or end of a practice. Maybe you have been a little curious as to why people say it. It’s a really interesting sound that we don’t hear in the English language much… or maybe we do and it comes out like “um”. These sounds have been studied and it has been found that saying “Om” can actually help increase awareness.
Sounds are a part of our memory. Just think about it. Can you imagine what “tires screeching” sound like right now? What about the sound of “fingers tapping on a computer keyboard”? All of those sounds are a part of events that we can connect to. They’re not really sounds of nature, but our brain can remember sounds and what pictures might go along with them.
So, mantras are kind of like that. “Om” is a mantra. It is said that sounds like “om” evoke movement of energy, and connects to nature. It could be a sensation that you feel physically or even emotionally. You can actually feel certain sounds in different areas of your body as you say “om”. Saying “Om” actually taps into a part of our brain that helps us concentrate and gives us a focal point to become self aware.
This mantra actually has three parts that flow into one another and create a smoothness between the three distinct sounds. So if we look at the mantra “Om” it actually as 3 sounds “A-U-M”:
A- (saying the “a” in the word car) your mouth is wide open and you may feel a vibration effect in your body
U- (saying the “ou” in soup) has a different effect that is more narrow and subtle
M – (buzzing sound) can make your whole head vibrate because the mouth is closed
The feelings differ from person to person. The shapes of our mouths, how relaxed we are, or even how we breathe can affect the way it sounds. It still might be fun to try, just to see what you can notice. It’s good to be curious about it, and it can be fun to learn how to make the mantra work for you. The more you try it, you may be able to improve your mood because it has a positive effect on the nervous system. By practicing mantra we can become more self aware and have greater sensitivity to understanding the emotional and physical parts of ourselves.
So practice saying “om”. See how it feels to you. Here’s a way you can start:
- Find a comfortable seat, make sure you’re sitting up tall.
- Take a few deep cleansing breaths by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth 3 times.
- On the next inhale in pause and then as you exhale say the mantra “om” slowly and fully.
- Pause for a moment.
- Take a deep breath in through the nose and as you exhale say “om” slowly and fully.
- Pause again.
- Take a deep breath in through the nose once more and as you exhale say “om” slowly and fully.
- Come back to your regular breath and notice.
*(Remember that you are your own best judge of what feels good. If you feel uncomfortable stop at any moment. This is only a suggested practice.)