What does the 'Om' actually mean in yoga?

by Jacinta Koelewyn on Wednesday 06 July 2022

4 min read


If you’ve been to a yoga class, it’s likely you’ve heard your teacher say this soothing and harmonious chant as everyone immerses into a meditative state. But have you ever wondered about the meaning behind it and why we say ‘om’ in yoga? Read on to find out.

The historical meaning of ‘om’

‘Om’ (also spelt as ‘aum’) is a sound that has a sacred meaning. It’s a Sanskrit word used as an ancient mantra in many faiths, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

According to the Hindu tradition, the sound of om represents the whole universe – the beginning of time, the present and the future, and the cycle of life. It captures the union of mind, body and spirit that’s central to yoga.

This sacred sound can also have a physical effect on the body. Om is believed to reduce stress and anxiety, helping you create positive energy by concentrating on one thing at a time.

How om is used in yoga

Yoga is a spiritual practice that values intuition, self-knowledge and connection. Om is usually chanted at the start or end of yoga sessions. It’s done to connect with others and with the universe. An om may signify the beginning or end of part of your class, such as the start of a meditation session or the end of your class. 

Using the chakra system, om is used to connect with the third eye (the Ajna chakra). Yoga classes will often use the mantra ‘om’ while concentrating on the centre of your forehead. Your instructor will ask you to look up to the centre of your brow, often with your eyes closed.

It’s also a seed syllable, meaning it’s used as a base for other mantras, such as:

  • Om shanti (peace be with you or a way to say goodbye)
  • Om namah shivaya (I honour the divinity within myself).

How to be respectful of its roots

To honour the roots of yoga, it’s important to treat your class and its practices with respect and integrity. Try to appreciate the cultural and spiritual significance – ensuring you never make light of it and instead treat it as the sacred sound it is. 

As a new yoga student, you may feel a little intimidated, hesitant or even self-conscious about chanting om. But getting outside of your comfort zone can be a wonderful thing! It’s a great tool to feel unified with your class, focus your mind and immerse yourself in your yoga practice.  

Yoga classes for every soul and goal

If you’re looking for ways to achieve balance, including physical, spiritual and mental wellness, you’ll be sure to find your fit with Virgin Active. Our yoga classes include: Flow, Align and Calm – bringing together ancient practices in a modern setting. Book a tour with us today to discover more about what we have to offer.

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