The Origin of the AUM (OM) Symbol
Aum means ‘totality, intangible unity of the universe and all that is known and unknown’. It represents the universal name of the Lord. In Hinduism it is a sound to praise the Lord. It symbolizes the state of waking, dreaming and deep sleep; the three divines: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; the three Vedas: Rig, Yajur and Sama; and the three worlds: Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah. Originally the symbol Aum or Om is a sacred symbol of Hinduism and it is originated from Devnagiri, a script based on Sanskrit.
How to Pronounce and Chant the AUM (OM) Symbol
The Aum or Om sound can be chanted during meditation and at the beginning and end of your yoga practice and it is considered to be the root mantra for all others. It is phonetically pronounced with three sounds: A (as in apple), U (as in put) and M (as in mum). To chant Aum you inhale and on the exhalation you start with the ‘A’ at the base of the throat, then placing the lips together you sound the ‘U’ and after you close your lips you sound the ‘M’. The ‘A’ and ‘U’ are long and the ‘M’ is like a humming sound that can last as long as your exhalation.
During the chant you should keep a good posture and breathing in a comfortable sitting position (see our list of postures for meditation). Keep the spine long and take a deep breath in, relax the throat and starting chanting on the exhalation until the lungs are almost empty. You can repeat it as many times as you like, it is quite common to repeat it for three times.
Ashtanga Yoga Mantra
Beginning and End Mantra of Ashtanga Yoga Practice
The practice of Ashtanga yoga traditionally starts and finishes with a mantra recitation. These are prayers that express wish for healing, prosperity and acknowledgement of Patanjali, the creator of the Eight-Limbed Yoga Path.
Mantra at the beginning of Ashtanga yoga practice
vande gurunam caranaravinde
sandarshita svatma sukha va bodhe
nih sreyase jangalika yamane
samsara halahala mohasahantyai
sahasra shirasam svetam
To calm the delirium caused by the poison of samsara,
I venerate the lotus feet of the masters, which awaken
the joy of witnessing the Self. They are the very best
doctors against poison.
I bow to Patanjali, who is white and has a thousand heads
and who, with a man’s body up to his arms, holds conch,
discus and sword.
Mantra at the end of Ashtanga yoga practice
At the end of ashtanga yoga practice happiness, health and well-being are wished upon mankind and the natural world.
Svasti praja bhyaha pari pala yantam
Nya yena margena mahi mahishaha
Go brahmanebhyaha shubamastu nityam
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Om shanti shanti shanti
May all creatures be well!
May the rules of the earth protect
the world by the right path.
May cows and Brahmins always be prosperous.
May the whole world always be happy.
Om, peace, peace, peace.
Although chanting a mantra is not an essential part of a yoga practice, the mantra repetition brings a sense of spiritual transcendence, creating a pleasurable and resonant sound that vibrates through the body and lift the spirits. You can also replace it with a prayer that you are familiar with or an affirmation that is personal to you.
Marcia has been practising yoga for over 20 years and has specialised in the Hatha and Ashtanga schools of yoga, although has also enjoyed learning other branches such as Iyengar. As well as yoga she practices meditation, and plays a wide range of sports, including badminton, cricket, cycling, and walking.