My first experience with Yoga chanting was literally eye-opening. I sat in the middle of a packed Yogaworks class, peering around to see if I was the only one a little confused. I noticed one other woman, who I’m assuming also didn’t know the words to the chant, packed up her stuff and left. Maybe she thought this portion of class was an indicator of more to come? Maybe she didn’t recognize the instructor and realized she was in the wrong class? Or, maybe the singing made her uncomfortable (which would be completely normal)? Whatever her reasoning, I felt tempted to do the same. Instead, I closed my eyes, and sat transfixed on my mat, listening to the beautiful sounds around me.
I’m glad I stayed instead of shying away from the discomfort as it provided me the opportunity to experience a type of unity that only chanting in a room with strangers can bring.
Whether you are chanting or Om’ing, it can take you out of your comfort zone when doing it for the first time. During my first “Om’ing” experience I found myself trying to match my tone to the person next to me and feeling silly when I ran out of breath 20 seconds before the rest of the class. But that’s really the beauty of the Om. All of the different pitches and tones create something awe-inspiring and unique, so no two Om’s are ever the same.
“Om” is described by the ancient Mandukya Upanishad as a primordial vibration. It is suggested to symbolize everything manifested in the universe. If that’s not for you, you can think about it as the same sound your Macbook makes when you turn it on. Every instructor does their own thing, whether it’s a singular “Om”, three “Oms” or one of the many beautiful hindu chants. We implore you to be present and don’t be intimidated. Your voice is instrumental in creating the unique sound everyone experiences.
So the next time you go to a class and all of a sudden the entire room is chanting in one unified voice in another language; my advice is to sit back and enjoy it. It is really beautiful and relaxing listening to the collective voices of your peers preparing themselves for their practice.