Why does the yogi chant ohm?
To answer that, let’s first have a look at what OHM is.
In my classes I describe it as a universal unifying chant.
This chant is universal, as it predates any currently known cultures. So even though it is often associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, its origins go much further back. It is mentioned in the Upanishads, Patanjalies Sutras and in the Bagava Gita. These texts go back over 5000 years.
In these scriptures the syllable OHM is said to be the primordial sound from which all other sounds and creation emerge which signifies the Supreme Power of creation.
And what could be more universal than that?
I say the chant is a unifying experience, as repeatedly chanting OHM allows us to resonate with all of creation.
In one of his YouTube talks on OHM, Sadhguru says, that OHM resonates at a frequency of 432 Hz. (The way I understand this, when the human voice chants ohm at it’s most relaxed note and state, the frequency 432 Hz will appear somewhere, if not as the base note, then in the overtones). The frequency 432 Hz is said to be found in all things throughout nature.
Whether this is something we can relate to or not, what we can feel when chanting is the resonance of our voice within our body.
Chanting OHM at the beginning or end of our practice, is a way to symbolically and physically tune into that sound and acknowledge our connection to everything in the Universe.
OHM can also be used as a meditation practice all on it’s own
The sound OHM, when pronounced correctly is pronounced AUM, and has four states;
- a (pronounced "ah") represents our waking state. It resonates from our solar plexus down through our abdominal cavity and thus stimulates the three lowest chakras.
- u (pronounced "ooh") is the dreaming state, or the consciousness of our inner world of thoughts, dreams, memories, and so on. It is also associated with sustaining life. It resonates in the Throat and heart, up into the back of the oral cavity. It stimulates our heart and our throat chakras.
- The m is the dreamless state of deep sleep and the experience of ultimate unity, liberation and death. It resonates through the head and scalp, and stimulates our third eye and crown chakra.
The fourth state is when the OHM is taken as a single unit. This state transcends all of the above states. It is know as Turiya.
When we chant ohm repeatedly each round of ohm will resonate through our body, from the navel up to the crown of the head. When chanted from the heart with feeling, it causes stillness of the mind and sends harmonising vibrations through the mind and “subtle body,” elevating the mind. Eventually it is said to raise the consciousness to the state of Turiya wherein the practitioner loses the individual consciousness and merges with the Supreme Soul.
You can try these vibrations out for your self.
I have linked to a YouTube video bellow that takes you through a short exercise of exploring the vibrations of OHM.
A personal encounter with the power of OHM:
When I was in India in 2010, I found my self struggling a lot with meditation, and my practice in general.
It was the khumbmela in Rishikesh, and I was there on a yoga retreat. Expecting to dive deeper into my yoga practice.
In fact I was feeling incredibly stressed out and overwhelmed not just by the frenetic environment, but also the heat and dust.
On top of all that, I was paranoid about my diet, as at the time I had very bad digestive issues, and I was very aware that in the heat and crowds it was easy to pick up something that could send me to hospital.
In short, I felt like was in hell, and that was the state I was in.
I was walking in the centre of town, and feeling like I was about to have a panic attack.
I must have been radiating negative energy, as everyone around me gave me a wide berth and even traders in the market stalls left me alone.
Suddenly a little man with a shaved head, looking like a monk, came up to me. He stopped right in front of me and looked directly at me. I stopped dead in my tracks, a bit shocked and baffled. He handed me a small book. Bowed his head, smiled at me and then moved on.
The book cover read: Meditation on OM, and Mandukya Upanishad, by Swami Sivananda.
I flicked through the book and randomly stopped at a page. In the middle of the page was a section titled: The Jappa of OM. (Japa yoga is the practice of repeating a mantra or a sacred word. Either out loud, softly to one self or silently internally). The book said the more quite the mantra was repeated the more powerful its effect.
In an attempt to get away from the crowds and claustrophobia of the market, I walked away from the river Ganga, through a small residential area, that seemed to belong to an ashram. It had small gardens and statues.
At the back of that was a wide steep path leading up to a temple on the side of a mountain.
I was hot and out of breath walking, but there were less people here, so I continued the climb.
A man who was walking down the path towards the town, joyfully shouted at me: “Hari Ram, Hari Ram.”
(Ram is another name for Chrishna, and means the one who brings joy to the heart. In other traditions Ram refers to breath). He seemed so happy, that I almost felt his greeting was a telling off for not being joyful.
I felt like the air had been knocked out of me.
At the side of the path, there was a little resting place, with a view over the town and the River. There was a tree in the centre with a bench built around the bottom.
For the first time since my arrival in the country, I found a place with no people there. I went and sat on the bench. The view was breath taking, but I hardly noticed it.
I looked down to the book in my hand, and went to the same page it had randomly opened on earlier, and read it once again.
I closed my eyes and started repeating the mantra OHM to my self silently under my breath, and after a while a little louder, getting absorbed in the sensations of my voice vibrating in my body.
I have no idea how long I sat like this. After a while my mind got completely absorbed in the the sound and I lost track of time.
When I did open my eyes again, I was faced with the beautiful view of the River Ganga, the town and the sun now shining from the opposite side of the river. It really was breathtaking, and I could not help but smile.
I felt lighter, and all my negativity seemed to have vanished. Then I was overcome with a new feeling of adventure and peace.
On the way down the path back to the town, I came across the same guy who greeted me on the way up. Again he greeted me with the words: “Hari Ram, Hari Ram”. This time his joyful exclamation made me laugh, and I greeted him back with the same words. I noticed as he walked passed me that he continued to repeat the phrase “Hari Ram” to him self as he walked by.
When I returned to the market, I walked past a stall that sold fabrics. The lady tending to the stall took out a very simple piece of orange linen, like the ones the sadhus wear around their waist, and held it in front of me with a big smile. I immediately saw what she was getting at and bought the material.
For the rest of my time in Rishikesh I spent wearing this piece of cloth, and at times a pair of swimming trunks and sandals. The heat did not bother me anymore. My visit turned out to be an extraordinary adventure, and a great opportunity to deepen my practice.
This day in Rishikesh stands out as one of the days in my life where I was shown the power of simple practice. Nothing in the world around me changed. But in that simple Japa practice of repeating the OHM mantra, my inner world changed, allowing me to relax and see the world around me in a new light. It took me from my initial state of Hell, to the heavenly state of now.
This was a personal experience. Each person will have their individual experience of this practice.