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Updated by Lisa G on Mar 07, 2021
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What Does Om Mean?

The religious development through the ages has gone from raw to a very sophisticated stage where people can ask difficult questions and get satisfactory answers. There were speculations that religion and religious symbols and rituals will become obsolete and only logic will conquer minds and bodies. As we all know, it turned out to be not much of a truth.



In this age of AI and space exploration, people are still reverting back to the old ways of things, at least in some aspects. Alternative medicine has made a comeback as well as mysticism in India. Ideas and philosophies like these were termed as fatal for both individuals and communities but they have turned out to beneficial.

If you need to sum up the whole history of Indian mysticism in one word, then that word would be – Om!

It seems like a common word that is often chanted at the beginning and end of Yoga classes. In the ancient Sanskrit scriptures and prayers, it is also a very dominant word with many important passages starting and ending at this potent combination of syllables.


The Origin

The Om is one of the ancient syllables, first mentioned in the Upanishads, a religious philosophy script that is associated with the Vedanta philosophy. In the Aranyaka and Brahmana School of Hindu Philosophy, it is linked to divine knowledge and power. It is a composition of the three phonemes: “A”, “U”, and “M” corresponding to the three big stages of cosmic creation. In Sanskrit the vowel “A” and “U” combine to make a sound of “O”.

According to the Hindu belief system, as the creation of the universe started, there was a vibrating sound of vibration. The omniscient being that was the creator of the universe took the shape of this sound and became one with the sound that went like “OM”.


The Three Deities

When it is chanted as one the combination of three sounds, a-u-m, this signifies the symbols of three major Hindu deities that transcends all the other deities and mythical figures in the Hindu doctrine. These are the three deities:

• Brahma Shakti – this is one of the first deity that is associated with the creation of all what is under the heavens and on the earth. The first sound of the word denotes this being.

• Vishnu Shakti – this is the second deity that comes into this fold. It is associated with the preservation and retention of the universe. A time will come when preservation will not be needed, around the apocalypse and this being will be stripped of his powers. The middle sound of the word Om is devoted to that.

• Shiva Shakti – also known as the master of doom, this is the being that is entrusted with the destruction of all things that are in the universe. This is one of the most worshipped deities in the Hindu creed because of its association with death and liberation. The last syllable of the sound Om indicates the presence of this being.


How Does It Benefit Us

As stated earlier, in the Hindu tradition, the word Om contains the entire power of the entire universe. It is said to be the maiden sound of the universe and transcends the conventional barriers of time in the form of past, present, and the future. In a nutshell, it is a powerhouse the importance of which cannot be overstated for those who believe in this.

It is also employed as an origin syllable from which many mantras are generated.


Om In Yoga

When practitioners start their yoga session by uttering the word “Om”, they place themselves in a certain time and space where they will be free from any burden and enter a state of weightlessness. In that state, the ideas of time and matter become meaningless. This emptiness paves a way to the ultimate being, which was the main purpose of doing yoga, besides getting physical and mental strength.

Also, when you chant this word with a group of people, it creates a sense of community and unifies them in one whole. You become one with other members of your class and when you lose all the voice and hum a single word – OM!


The Science Behind Om

Being such a fantastic thing, scientists have probed into the nature and effects of chanting in solitude during meditation or in the group. In a small 2011 study with a follow up seven years later in 2018, researchers studied the effects of the word by studying the brains of the practitioners under MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).

In another study by the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, scientists noted the association of chanting om in the groups. They found out the relationship of om with the sense of relaxation, especially noting beneficial changes in the autonomic nervous system.

• Autonomic nervous system regulates vital systems of the human body including heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and many more internal functions.

• It was also associated with deactivation of limbic regions. This area controls emotions, memories, and sexual arousal among other things.


The Om Symbol

It was only natural that “om” became the unofficial logo of yoga. You will see it on a variety of merchandise including yoga mats, t-shirts, wall murals on yoga studio walls, as well as tattoos on the bodies of yogis and general practitioners.

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