WHAT IS OM & WHY DO WE CHANT IT?
Om (pron.: əʊm or ɒm) is said to be the oldest sound in yogic tradition of Hinduism and Tibetan buddhism. Sometimes spelled and chanted as “AUM”, it contains reference to three states of mind:
- A: Jagrat – Creator –
- U: Swapna – Preserver,
- M: Shushupti – Destroyer.
(some more information on this view here)
In another (not very different) view, the mantra “OM or AUM” represents God, the absolute and the vibration of the Supreme. It is pronounced with a strong nasalised or hummed m.Thus, A-U-M represents the divine energy (Shakti) united in its three elementary aspects:
- A- Bhrahma Shakti (creation),
- U – Vishnu Shakti (preservation),
- M – Shiva Shakti (liberation, and/or destruction).
Maybe, in a more modern understanding, we can think of these letters to represent the beginning/birth, the process of life and the death/end of the universe or all things.
When chanted at the beginning of the yoga practice, it sets the tone of the class and helps bring concentration to the mind, marks the beginning and the end of the class. In order to achieve a state of content, yoga needs to be practiced with focus and presence of mind. So, the resonance that occurs during the chant creates a sense of relaxation and helps with the elasticity needed to expand the lungs further.
I, personally, stick to the latter understanding and that is why I like to chant at the beginning and at the end of each class.
This is a question I ask often when I see idle feet, just lying around, not doing their part. I like to think that they know that I mean that yoga poses usually require the whole body get involved and even the tiniest body part has a role to play to bring about the “ease and steadiness” to the pose. Therefore, being more present in the pose will facilitate this ease and steadiness. Or. maybe, they just think that I am weird!
In my experience, yoga asana is more mental than physical. Whilst it is certainly possible to bend a knee without thinking too much about it, what makes yoga yoga is the fact that we pay attention, not to perfect the pose, but to observe and notice how it feels to be in the pose. The ultimate objective of asana is said to be to prepare the body to train the attention. Some would say that this should/can only be done in a sit-down meditation but I beg to differ, there is no reason why we shouldn’t train the attention to be more present in yoga asana and actually and sincerely mean to practice.
The following quote by Ray Long is an example of how our little big-toes go a long way to support our largest muscle, gluteus maximus:
… So how does the anatomy work? Muscles in your big
toes support the ligaments
and bones that make up
your arches. Healthy arches
(as opposed to fallen ones)
act like shock absorbers, transmitting kinetic forces, or the forces of motion, up through the ankles to the knees and up the kinetic chain of the body, potentially causing issues with alignment, joint health, and muscle strength. For example, weak big-toe flexors, the muscles that bend the toe, may change the strength and effectiveness of your largest glute muscle, gluteus maximus. And the glute max is critical in supporting most poses. For the big-toe muscles to do their job well, protecting your body from impact and instability, they need to be dynamically stable, meaning they should respond to shifts in movement, weight, and balance. … * – Ray Long (M.D) full article
Big toes are important but other toes, too. So, next time instead of looking at the chipped nail polish on your toes or trying to carry your weight with your hands in phalankasana, put your toes to work and observe how that feels. 🙂
I don’t think any particular movement or yoga pose is inherently dangerous, but I do think that certain movements or yoga poses can be dangerous if done carelessly and mindlessly. Each asana is a challenge to contort the body, and therefore the mind, and some more than others. I’ve been reading about the demonisation of salamba sarvangasana (shoulderstand) and salamba sirsasana (supported headstand) for a while now and I fail to understand the particular problem with these poses. Meanwhile, I don’t see anyone talking about the dangers of super deep back bends, arm balances, or nasty twists, not to mention handstands. If anything, I have to scroll through numerous handstand photographs on Instagram or Facebook! But no-one is writing blogs about how they stopped teaching chaturanga dandasana or phalankasana because the shoulders and wrists have to carry a lot of weight and might easily get injured, instead we talk about the ways to perform such poses safely. Although, one obvious reason for this maybe the relative importance the neck and the head compared with the wrists and the shoulders! Continue reading
Just yesterday, I watched online an Ashtanga Primary Series class with full vinyasas between poses and half vinyasas between right and left sides of a pose. A full vinyasa in the context of Ashtanga yoga is Sun Salutation A. A half vinyasa, a.k.a THE vinyasa in popular yoga jargon, is the transition as such: (plank)-chaturanga-urdva mukha savanasana-adho mukha savanasana.
This class lasted for two hours and everybody was really really tired at the end. In the normal practice, when we are not as ambitious, we do half vinyasas between poses and between sides of each pose. Continue reading