Aum – written also as Om, as depicted above in its devanagari script, is a sound that almost every Indian would be familiar with. It is the sound that accompanies our mantras and prayers, our daily mediation sessions, and decorates temples and religious festivals. But what is this word, and what does it mean?
According to the Upanishads, Aum is the sound of the universe, existence, and creation – it was the first sound to emerge from the cosmos. Since then, the word has been associated with the divine, eternal, as well as a means of reaching the divine and eternal.
In essence, no matter which way you approach this sacred iconography, it has always been connected with deeply spiritual meanings and motifs. However, Aum’s significance is more than just religious in Hinduism.
Many fail to understand that Hinduism is not just a religion, it is a way of life. The many texts of the religion teach not just gods and their worship, but also righteous living (dharma), rules of governance, philosophy, and of course, ways of maintaining mental and physical health through meditation and yoga. It is here Aum becomes something more than an abstract concept.
During meditation, yogic practitioners often encourage their students to engage in Aum chanting. But why? It’s because Aum is like a system reboot for the body. In order to chant the word, one consciously needs to take in a deep breath, exhale it, and hold the sound to internalize it. In other words, Aum chanting helps in bringing breathing from automation to conscious mind and helps regulate it. As the vibrations from the word reverberate in the chest, spine or might engulf ones whole body, an individual may feel themselves beginning to relax. This is because as breathing becomes regulated, oxygen intake also increases, and heartbeat becomes more rhythmic too.
Alongside the physical, Aum also has numerous mental benefits. As a conscious breathing exercise, it pulls concentration so that individuals are not idly daydreaming or stressing out, but leaves the mind open enough for other activities. As a result, one is left free to enjoy their breathing, reflect on their body, or simply allow their mind to relax in this state of semi-consciousness. Alongside, cardiovascular, pain-killing, and sinus-related benefits of Aum have also received some medical support.
Aum helps in bringing what lies under the surface of the mind to the forefront, helping us discover the negative emotions that may be nagging us without us even realizing that they exist. This negativity can rear its ugly head in many ways, from destructive behaviours such as impulsive moves or angry outbursts to feeding more negativity in the form of jealousy or frustration. Sometimes, we may not even realize all of this happening inside us. Aum, when practiced properly and regularly, helps in not just bringing this negativity to the forefront, but also helps in venting these and preventing them from affecting us. Through its physical mechanisms of vibrations, breathing regulations and helps in –
- Emotional balance
- Reduction of anxiety and stress
- Better sleeping
- And regulation of bodily processes such as blood pressure
Many health practices from the Indian heritage have been rediscovered, adopted, reinvented and presented across the world as an answer to the woes of the modern lifestyle – everything from stress to creative blocks can be solved through these mystical ‘oriental’ practices.
But the truth is, while these practices are very beneficial, there is always a human element that is conveniently overlooked. No yogic or meditation practice, no matter how potent, will ever show results unless it is learned, practiced, honed and made a part of your daily lifestyle.
While Aum chanting can help you in confronting and dealing with your negative emotions and thoughts, an ideal way of being would be to prevent these thoughts from affecting you in the first place. Of course, we are all humans, and some negativity in our lives is inevitable. But if you are constantly frustrated or easily find dysfunctional vents for these emotions, it may be worth it for you to try looking into the broader picture, and understand where and why these emotions and actions come from. Thus, Aum chanting can become a starting point for you to being an introspection into your being, understand and improve yourself, and eventually emerge healthier and happier.
So, why not give a better you a chance? Find some time for yourself, select a quiet place, dim the lights and light some incense, and give the video below a try. You may not only find yourself energized, but also ready to take some important steps towards a more positive you.