Aum – Om

The proper pronunciation of Aum is a dipthong ~ a combination of three sounds joined together all at once; "ah" "oo" and "mm."

The part of the symbol shaped like a "3" is the sound "ah." The swirly coming out of the middle of the "3" is the sound "oo." And the small dip with the dot above is the sound "mm."

When chanting, try to hear the sound aum, rather than chant it. Find that place in yourself where it is already resonating! Aum is the sound of the universe, the original sound. Like in the Bible "In the beginning there was the 'word' and the word was God. And the word was with God." This sound is always resonating in all of us.

The three sounds correspond to the three elements of the Hindu creation philosophy:
"ah" - Brahma. The sound of manifestation, creation, the 1st sound.
The first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.
Relates to self-expression, one's own creative experience, the beginnings of things: "Ah!"
"oo" - Vishnu. The sound of sustaining and maintaining.
Sticking with relationships, weeding the garden, dusting the house.
Often lost in a culture like ours where maintenance is so challenging.
"mm" - Shiva. The sound of resolution. Destruction and transformation.
Letting go, merging into consciousness.
And so you cannot stay too long with this sound, you must let go!

In chanting Aum, the "mm" goes up a note. Each sound is of equal length, included by an equal length of silence. During the silence stay with the higher note of the "mm," internally.

Exercise 1:
"ah" resonates low in the body, in the belly and low chest. The mouth is open wide and is relaxed.
"oo" - move the mouth, with a continuous sound into the shape of an "O" to make the "oo" sound. The vibration will be brought up into the neck and upper chest.
"mm" - gradually move the mouth into the sound "mm," with the mouth shut. This sound resonates in the head, as the vibration rises again.
silence - the final, essential sound. The vibration is even higher now.

Note: Avoid visualizing the frequency rising… try to feel it! Make all 4 sounds for equal amounts of time.

Exercise 2:
1. Work on sending the sound of the Aum out the back of your neck, at the medula point.
(The soft spot right under the small bump at the base of the skull).
2. Try to direct the sound out of your whole back. Allow your torso to act like the body of a cello, and let the sound resonate throughout you.
3. Working with a partner, taking turns to put your ear against your partner's back. Your partner will sit in an easy forward fold – legs straight out in front, palms up on the ground, very relaxed. Working down both sides of the back, begin by lightly touching a spot on your partner's back – then place your ear against their back. Your partner will chant an ? and if you cannot hear and feel the sound in that spot on their back, give them a little scratch and try again. Go all the way from the shoulders to the waist. The farther down you get, the harder it is to direct the om.

These notes taken from a class called "Refining your Aum" with Rama Berch 2001. Namaste!

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Updated January 10, 2005