Chanting AUM

By Ramananda Das (Richard Brookens) - Enlightened Practice Magazine Column, Aug/Sept '04

The primal sound of OM is sung to help focus the mind and foster a connection to spirit. B.K. S. Iyengar writes in his book 'Light on Pranayama, The Yogic Art of Breathing': AUM conveys concepts of omnipotence and universality. It contains everything that is auspicious a well as awe-inspiring. It is a symbol of serenity and majestic power. AUM is the everlasting spirit, the highest aim. When its connotations are fully known, all longings are fulfilled. It is the surest means of salvation and the supreme help. It connotes the fullness of human life, thought, experience, and worship. It is the immortal sound. Those who enter and take refuge in it become immortal.

I've had the pleasure of accompanying both Bhagavan Das and Russill Paul on Tablas during their Kirtans and workshops IN SOUTH FLORIDA OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS. Both taught this most simple of mantras, separating the sound into three syllables. Although it is most commonly spelled OM, it can also be spelled A-U-M. Singing each syllable with the idea of sending the vibration to a specific location in the body is also something that was taught by both Bhagavan Das and Russill Paul.

To do this properly, you should not be concerned about how good your voice is - you should sing out with a full voice and feel the vibration. Send the sound out to the universe without fear. First sit up straight, close the eyes, and focus them at the third eye. Then, to help access a big sound, take a big inhalation and let the belly fall out make a big "Buddha belly" and drop the diaphragm down. When you are ready to sing, pull the belly in and lift the diaphragm up under the ribs. This helps to project the sound and keep from straining the voice.

Now we are ready to chant. Open the mouth wide, drop the jaw down, and sing the syllable AH, using a low note to send the vibration to the base of the spine at the first chakra. Keep singing until you can feel the vibration at the root of the spine, where the Muladhara Chakra is located. This is the chakra that connects us to the earth. Feel the vibration strengthening your sense of being rooted in this world. See if you can keep focusing the vibration there a few more times.

When you have enjoyed the sensation at the root of the spine and you feel ready to move on, purse the lips and begin singing the syllable OOH (U) with a slightly higher pitch. Make sure you are taking nice big inhalations so you can hold the sound of the syllable as long as possible. Send the vibration to the heart - the Anahata or fourth chakra. This chakra is associated with the power of love. Stay there until you have established the connection between the vibration and your heart. Once you have enjoyed the vibration at the Heart Chakra, you are ready to move onto the next syllable. Close the lips and place the tongue just above the front teeth on the gums to sing M-M-M. Singing slightly higher than before, send the vibration to the third eye - the Ajna Chakra or sixth chakra. This chakra is associated with intuition. Keep the vibrations strong - push the sound. When you have established this last syllable's vibration at the area of the third eye, you are ready to reconnect all three syllables into A-U-M with one breath. Let yourself go into the sound, refocusing your awareness on the vibration of your voice, if the mind wanders.

Start again with a big inhalation and sing AH with a low sound. Feel the vibration in the root chakra. Then, raising the pitch slightly, move the vibration up to the Heart Chakra with OOH. And, finally (before you run out of breath!), raise the pitch again and sing M-M-M with the tip of the tongue, bringing the vibration to the third eye.

With this "simple" mantra, you can reach the depths of your soul and experience the vibration of the primal sound. For those of you who might hesitate to sing in public at a Kirtan, this method of connecting to your voice, placing the vibrations in specific parts of your body can give you the confidence to join others. The more the merrier, and the power of the vibrations are multiplied when in a group.

Ramananda Das (Richard Brookens) is certified in Sivananda and Kundalini Yoga. He currently teaches Yoga at Barry University in Miami Shores, Spa Atlantis in Pompano, and Yoga Connection in Plantation. He also plays woodwinds (saxophones, flutes, and clarinets) and hand percussion (tablas, clay pot, et al), and regularly performs professionally in the local area. He has also performed throughout the United States, the Carribbean, and in Panang, Malaysia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and Europe. He has released two CDs of original World Fusion Music, and three meditation/relaxation CDs on his Yellow Bell label. Contact him, listen to free samples from his CDs, and view pictures of some of his performances and World instruments at www.yellowbellmusic.com.

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