(Before reading this blog, I would like to state that I believe in a Higher Power. For the ease of writing this, I have identified this Higher Power with the name that is God. If you have another name for the Higher Power, please know that I do not mean to offend by this use.)
When I first began to study Yoga, I thought I would only be doing it as a form of exercise. It was hard for me to relate to, or understand, OM since I felt it wasn’t part of my particular faith. During my 200 hour training we had to read, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda. His description of the sound of OM and how it is the sound of God opened my eyes. He says that God is infinite and therefore the hum (OM) of God is in all of us and is there whether we hear it or not. He says all of this not has a Hindu but as someone that did not subscribe to any particular religion. But still, he believed in God and how OM is vibrating within us that “transcends all geographical, political, or theological limitations.” To that I say, “Amen!,” which Swami Satchidananda stated is another variation of OM.
I would like to think that if an alien planet light-years away had a satellite pointed towards this universe that it would return a steady sound like white-noise. I believe we are all little pieces of God and therefore we resonate with the sound of OM without moving our lips. (Side Note: I like to think that saying “Namaste” is recognizing those little pieces of God in another.) Just as different countries have a different sound for a cat’s meow (Chinese: miao, German: miau, Japanese: n’yao), the sound of God, the OM, probably doesn’t sound the same to everyone or even inside of everyone. It probably would sound different if we held an “OM stethoscope” up to each of us, but together we make that beautiful sound and music that is God.
For children, a discussion of this depth can be very confusing. We like to stick to the simple, “OM is that constant humming sound vibrating throughout the universe.” Also, I believe that what can be considered religious teachings should be done at the approval of the parents/caregivers. I’m not saying I would have gotten bent out of shape if someone had taught my child to OM before I had an understanding of it, but there are parents out there who definitely would. We are taught as Yoga teachers to know our audience and know whether teaching OM is an acceptable practice. If you really don’t know if it is, teaching the child to take a deep breath and let out a long “AAAHHHHHH” is pretty safe. For a breathing and OMing exercise, I have asked children to place their hands on their belly, take a deep breath and say, “MMMMM,” like they just ate something yummy. Then I ask them to place their hands on their chest and say, “OOOHHH,” like they just thought of something. Lastly, I ask them to place their hands on their head and say, “AAAHHH,” like a lightbulb just went off in their head.
For a place that practicing OM is acceptable, silly OMs for the kids are undeniably awesome. I really enjoy doing these since it helps to get the sillies out before going into our “serious” OMs. There are countless silly OMs out there (dentist drilling OM, echo-OM, meow-om, santa laughing OM, etc…) and the children really get into making up their own silly OMs. If there is anything I have learned, it is to not take things so seriously and to listen to the sound of your inner-OM.