What Is It & Why Do We Chant It?
The first word OM (AUM)
Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is also called Pranav because its sound emanates from the first sound, (big bang)/ (vital vibration), which feeds the Universe. The scripture says "Aum Iti Ek Akshara Brahman" (Aum that one syllable is Brahman).
Coming from Hinduism and Yoga, the mantra is considered to have high spiritual and creative power but despite this, it is a mantra that can be recited by anyone. It’s both a sound and a symbol rich in meaning and depth and when pronounced correctly it is actually AUM..
OM is a mantra that expresses the most basic reverberations of the primordial sounds. So in this way, OM contains the vibration of everything that has ever existed and every vibration that will ever exist. When we chant OM, we herald our universality, we announce our connection and our journey from individuality to universality.
Om is the bow, the arrow is the Soul, Brahman the mark, By the undistracted man is It to be penetrated, One should come to be in It, as the arrow becomes one with the mark.
— Mundaka Upanishad, 2.2.2 – 2.2.4
Aum as all states of time
In verse 1, the Upanishad states that time is threefold: the past, the present and the future, that these three are "Aum". The four fourth of time is that which transcends time, that too is "Aum" expressed.
Aum as all states of Atman
In verse 2, states the Upanishad, everything is Brahman, but Brahman is Atman (the Soul, Self), and that the Atman is fourfold. Johnston summarizes these four states of Self, respectively, as seeking the physical, seeking inner thought, seeking the causes and spiritual consciousness, and the fourth state is realizing oneness with the Self, the Eternal.
Aum as all states of consciousness
In verses 3 to 6, the Mandukya Upanishad enumerates four states of consciousness: wakeful, dream, deep sleep and the state of ekatma (being one with Self, the oneness of Self).These four are A + U + M + "without an element" respectively.
Aum as all of knowledge
In verses 9 to 12, the Mandukya Upanishad enumerates fourfold etymological roots of the syllable "Aum". It states that the first element of "Aum" is A, which is from Apti(obtaining, reaching) or from Adimatva (being first). The second element is U, which is from Utkarsa (exaltation) or from Ubhayatva (intermediateness). The third element is M, from Miti (erecting, constructing) or from Mi Minati, or apīti (annihilation). The fourth is without an element, without development, beyond the expanse of universe. In this way, states the Upanishad, the syllable Om is indeed the Atman (the self).
How we chant OM
A - emerges from the throat, originating in the region of the navel (waking)
U - rolls over the tongue (dreaming)
M - ends on the lips (sleeping It is the sum and substance of all the words)
Come to a sitting position with crossed legs Sukhasana.
Relax your hands on your knees or placed them on Anjali Mundra.
Close your eyes, lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders and your neck.
Inhale with the nose, slowly and deeply.
Exhale with OM (AUM)