Saturday, 15 September 2012

On a separate note…

I have a confession to make.  A big one, for a yogi, actually.  I have always disliked the Om.  I can’t really explain why, but it’s the part of a yoga practice that has always made me sigh inwardly with distaste.  I would usually just pretend to Om.  Or maybe hum.  Or sit quietly and wait for it to be over – your eyes are supposed to be closed at this point, right?  How would anyone know if I was sitting it out?!  After day one of YTT, I realised that this was going to be a part of the training I couldn’t escape.  There’s a lot of Omming going on at Semperviva. 
So what was my problem?  I’d never really thought about it clearly until the second training class.  What’s the big deal?  Why am I am a Om snob?  My guess?  No one has ever taken a moment to explain why we Om.  Not a single teacher.  They have all just incorporated it as part of the practice with the expectation that students know why they Om. 

Om is a Sanskrit sound important in Dharmic religions, ie Hinduism, Buddhism.  In these religions, it’s placed at the beginning of a sacred incantation as an invitation to God to partake in a religious ceremony or ritual.  In yoga, it’s usually chanted before and/or after a class.  Chanting Om is a supposed to be a mantra, or vibration, for meditation – the sound of the universe.  In an article I found on Yoga Journal, it’s explained like this - 

“Somehow the ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us—that the entire universe is moving. Nothing is ever solid or still. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, the inside of a seashell.

Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.”

Why am I fixating on this?  Because, during last night’s Hatha class, sitting amongst 40 or so other yogis, our teacher announced we would commence an Om ‘wave’. Literally, we would just keep up the Om, starting and concluding each sound at our own pace.  The moment the words were out of her mouth, that sarcastic sigh was itching the back of my throat.  She suggested that we would Om for 3-5 minutes (yikes!) and then naturally dissolve into silence.  I was looking at 3-5 minutes of hell.  I thought I would hum for the first few Oms and then sit quietly while everyone else got it out of their system.  So I Ommed a couple of times.  And then a couple of times more.  And then I just kept on with it, because everyone else was.  I have no idea how long this went on for – definitely not at long as three minutes, but as soon as I wondered when it would ‘conclude naturally’, it just did.  There was no tapering out, with a few people carrying on alone for a short while.  There was no stilted half-Om with someone starting and then stopping suddenly as they realised it was over.  Literally, everyone just stopped at exactly the same time.  And finally, I got it.  The vibration in the room, in the air, was incredible.  It hung around us in the silence for a long time afterwards.  It was electrifying – literally energising.  I’ve been practicing yoga for all this time, withstanding many a wishy-washy chant and half-hearted Om, and only just discovered why we do this?  I feel completely cheated! 

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