To Om or not to Om


To Om or not to Om

You walk into your first yoga class, a little apprehensive, a little
intimidated by the other – probably more flexible – students sitting
quietly on their mats, eerily at peace. You sit on your mat wondering
what you’re supposed to be doing, and decide to cross your legs and
close your eyes like the woman next to you is doing. You wonder if
this is for you. Clearly you missed some memo about what yoga is, when
do we stretch out our hamstrings? Then the teacher speaks in a calm,
easy tone, something about the beauty of spring and listening to our
bodies, not pushing too hard. Ha! She obviously doesn’t know you. Then
she asks everyone to bring hands together in a prayer position and she
begins to Om. All of the students quickly chime in. Ommmmmmmmm. You’re
not sure what to do. Is this a religious tradition? A manipulation of
the mind? A sort of cult? To Om or not to Om, you are unsure, and a
little uncomfortable.

Om is steeped in yoga tradition and is often heard at the beginning
and the end of a yoga class. The symbols and sounds of Om are rich in
meaning and depth, and nearly impossible to succinctly define. It can
be linked to ancient Hindu beliefs and yogic texts, as well as
Buddhist systems and chakras. It represents interconnectivity within
ourselves and to others, and a link between past, present, and future.
For many of us though, it’s simply a sound and vibration that we are
drawn to because it is calming and invigorating, soft and strong. As
is yoga’s intention, it shifts us from our external world into a more
contemplative and focused state.

We started Omming to our daughter when she was a newborn. Actually
before that, during pregnancy and labor. She responded immediately and
undeniably. When she was a baby she would literally go from crying
incessantly to a deep sleep once Japheth starting Omming. We used it
to calm her through night terrors, separation anxiety, even teething.
We still Om to her even now each night when we put her to bed, and she
often Oms with us. It’s been a way to reinforce our connection to each
other, to ground us and remind us to be present, that these moments
are precious.

Om is powerful, in meaning, in tradition, and in its sound. It can be
intimidating and a little disconcerting to an unsuspecting new yogi.
But before you dismiss it or turn away from it or from yoga, consider
what that sound feels like to you. Maybe it reminds you of the beach,
or your baby’s noise machine, or your favorite song, and that makes
you smile. Maybe you notice your shoulders relaxing a little as those
around you Om confidently. Maybe it makes you feel grounded in a way
that you haven’t felt in a long time. To Om or not to Om? I say let go
of what’s holding you back and enjoy THIS moment, and if Omming feels
right in this moment, go for it! And if not, be okay with that too.

Om Om.


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