The Power of AUM

by Thread Yoga teacher and mentor Cristie Newhart



My friend Janna was in a play, and in one scene, her role required her to pick up a live snake from a basket. Her character would take the snake out of the basket and hold it in the spotlight for several minutes while speaking her lines. The snake’s name was Odie and Odie wasn’t used to being handled. She had a history of biting, and particularly disked the stage manager. Janna knew immediately she needed to take charge of the situation and be the only person handling Odie. She also knew that she was afraid and trying to work with Odie while she was afraid wasn’t going to yield success. Janna needed help. She wanted to learn the best way to communicate with Odie, a way that respected a snake’s nature, so she consulted a Shaman. She was advised to take her time with the snake, speak to it, connect with it on an energetic level before handling. Janna did that, plus another element. She sounded AUM to connect.


AUM was first revealed in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism, approximately 1500-500BCE. You can also find reference to AUM in the Vedas, Upanishads, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita. Most mantras in the Hindu tradition begin with AUM, therefore some scholars consider AUM the most sacred sound/symbol of the Hindu tradition. AUM is considered primeval word; that is before time.

Around the world today, AUM is often chanted at the beginning and at the end of yoga classes. When we speak this vibration before practice, we calm the mind and shift focus inward. When a group does it together, energy is unified, and we are sharing in a practice that has existed for thousands of years. In this way AUM links us to our yogic ancestors.

When the ancient practitioners went into deep states of silence, they emerged into a vibration. They called this continuous inner resonance, this divine inner melody Anahata Nada, the unstruck sound. This sound that has no perceptible cause. The yogis say this sound includes within it all that is manifest and unmanifest. The AUM we chant today is the closest replication of this indescribable experience.


Patanjali instructs that we should repeat AUM and reflect and contemplate its meaning. We should let the substance of the sound imbue our whole being. When we do this inquiry, Patanjali tells us that all mental obstacles and distractions will be quelled without the usual struggle. How does repeating AUM release our mental obstacles?


OM mantra integrates three sounds, which are represented by the letters A U M. Each sound represents a different layer of human experience.

OM mantra integrates three sounds, which are represented by the letters A U M. Each sound represents a different layer of human experience. When we chant AUM, this integrated awareness resonates with us deeply. When we repeat the sound with sincerity and focus, the mantra transports us to silence. The true silence of our own nature. Mental struggles and obstacles fade in the face of this dynamic stillness.


Around the world today, AUM is often chanted at the beginning and at the end of yoga classes. When we speak this vibration before practice, we calm the mind and shift focus inward. When a group does it together, energy is unified, and we are sharing in a practice that has existed for thousands of years. In this way AUM links us to our yogic ancestors. The symbol of the sound, and the sound itself, can also be used in daily life as a reminder to bring our awareness back to the infinite nature of existence.


Janna took her time to get to know Odie. She sounded a soft AUM as she neared aquarium tank where the snake was housed. As she stood at the aquarium, with her hands on the glass, my friend continued to chant. She held a space of respect and honor for Odie. On stage, with the lights, the people and the excitement, my friend picked Odie out of the basket and presented her to the audience and delivered her lines. Odie was cooperative and willing during the whole performance. Every night of the performance was the same. Odie and Janna built a relationship. There was no fear or hesitation. My friend carries this experience with her as something sacred and profound.


When Janna repeated the mantra AUM to Odie, she was connecting with her in an unseen, vibratory way which a snake would understand. Studies have shown snakes sense sound waves not just in the ground, but the air as well. But it was more than that. My friend was also clear that she wanted to treat the snake with respect and honor. She approached her as if asking permission, rather than an overtaking of this being. These things contributed to the response from Odie. But what’s also important about the power of AUM is that by speaking the mantra, Janna was able to ground, center and deepen her experience of herself beyond her fear. She overcame her fear, but in a way that didn’t deny it. AUM mantra helped her bridge the gap between the fear she felt and the love she wanted to embody. She brought forth this divine inner melody in her own way and shared it. That’s the power of AUM.



 


Cristie Newhart is a Writer, Thread Teacher and Mentor, Kripalu Yoga Teacher and Trainer, and former Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga.

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