Which of the following statements is not true?
- Om is comprised of four sounds, A, U, M, and silence.
- The sound OM, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature.
- Chanting OM stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps to regulate the nervous system.
- Scientists found that consuming 1 oz of high quality dark chocolate has the same effect.
- The Montana Department of Labor and Industry gave me a grant to attend a 200-hour Yoga of Sound teacher training.
While dark chocolate does contain tryptophan and serotonin, which create feelings of relaxation and well-being, it’s not the same as chanting OM. (But if you’re interested in the science, you can read more on benefits of dark chocolate here.)
The vibrations from chanting OM do stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight or flight response (Sympathetic Nervous System). In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body, our rest and digest response (Parasympathetic Nervous System).
Try it yourself. Pause what you’re doing for a moment and take a deep breath in, on the exhale open your mouth and make the sound 'O' as in ‘home’ then, about halfway through the extended exhale, let the lips come together for 'Mmmm' and allow the sound to fade into silence. If time allows, repeat a few times. Then notice how you feel.
This noticing is something we did a lot of in the 200-hour Heart of Sound Training. (Yes, number 5 was true!) The phrase my teacher, Anandra George, used was, “Notice what is alive in you.” To me this was tricky as I had to maneuver around the praising or shaming judgments of the ego to get to what was really alive, physically, energetically, emotionally, intellectually and/or spiritually. The resonance of sound penetrates all layers of our being and has the potential to bring them into harmony. This is one of the primary therapeutic benefits of chanting, or mantra as it is called in Sanskrit. While you can chant in English, or any other language for that matter, there is something special about chanting in Sanskrit as each letter has a specific tongue/mouth placement and resonance. Stringing them together in a mantra creates a magical alchemy to soothe mind, body and soul.
Definitions of the word mantra include 'a tool for the mind', 'that which sets free/protects the ordinary mind' and 'an uplifting phrase designed to elevate consciousness'. Mantra sounds to me like a pretty useful tool for maneuvering around the judging ego and finding harmony within the self. This is what the Heart of Sound/Yoga of Sound training was all about - using the transformational power of sound to yoke together all layers of our being with the pulse of life. From the simple humming of Mmmmm to a full band kirtan, it’s all an invitation to connect with a deep, undying inner love.
For a non-musical lover of solitude and quietude like me, this was a powerful practice. We all have our own unique sound and vibration. There is a palpable sense of personal truth and authenticity when you tune into yours. Yoga asana practice helps us tune into our physical body, pranayama to our breath, and mantra to our voice.
If you want to explore these tools of transformation, join me for Yoga Pause, Wednesdays 4:30 – 5:45 pm in June, then 6:15 – 7:30 pm in July and August. See this link for details and contact me with any questions or to schedule a one-on-one private session.
Thanks for reading. Before moving on with your day, let’s pause for one more OM….
A few resources for more info on mantra:
- http://truefreedomcoaching.com/the-heart-of-sound/ - download Anandra's free e-book!
- Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan by Alanna Kaivalya