Have you ever felt the energy in a Yoga class change as the practice begins? Before class, kids (and adults) are talking, checking their phones, organizing their props, laughing, and fidgeting. But as soon as the teacher begins to chant, “ooooommm” and the students begin joining in, the energy settles down. It’s like magic. And it is powerful.
I’ve thought about this energy shift a lot in the prenatal Yoga classes I teach. If chanting “om” works on adults, children, and even newborns, might it also have an effect on unborn babies? Speaking from personal experience, I practiced Yoga and chanted throughout my pregnancy with my son. And, lo and behold, after he was born and was crying for no obvious reason (which, looking back, was quite often), I could hold him, his body on my chest, and as soon as I started a low-pitched, long “om” chant, he would calm down. His fists would unclench, his little eyebrows would relax, and he’d often fall asleep. Now, it didn’t always work, and maybe he just liked being held, but I really think he recognized and related to the familiar vibrations of my chanting.
Can I prove Om’s power scientifically? Well, no. But what I do know is anything a pregnant mom can do to lower her levels of stress, also lowers baby’s stress level, too. So when my pregnant students come to Yoga class, their practice lights up their parasympathetic nervous system – their heart rates slow, their blood pressure lessens, and their muscles relax. And according to Anne Phyfe Palmer, founder of 8 Limbs Yoga Center in Seattle, “If (the mother) is receiving the benefits from these practices – without any research needed to back it up – her future child is, too.”
I also know that a baby in the uterus can hear her mother’s chanting quite clearly. Their ears work at 16 weeks and by 24 weeks, they are actively listening. Plus (and this is awesome) the late Alfred Tomatis, an otolaryngologist, believed that embryos listen with their whole bodies! Their skin is like another giant ear. This is why the mother’s voice is clearer than any other – the baby feels it and hears it. So, by the mother chanting, the baby hears the soothing voice and feels the calming vibrations.
Moms don’t even need to use “om” as their chant (though it is the most organic, primordial sound). Moms can choose any mantra that speaks to them. Some common mantras are “shanti” (peace) and “Ham Sa” (a variation of the Hebrew Torah’s most famous lines meaning “I am that I am”). Moms can also create their own repetitive phrase. Just remember you are invoking the chant’s meaning, both vocally and vibrationally, so choose something positive!
Obviously, I don’t have exact scientific proof of chanting’s prenatal power. But I can safely assume that if it is good for mom, it is good for baby. As Colette Crawford, R.N. explains, “This baby is cooking in the soup of this mother’s experience. My guru says, ‘Pay attention to what you think, eat, read, and see with your eyes, what you experience and what you feel. If you want a calm and happy baby, then pay attention to where your energy is and what energies are coming in.’”
And even if a baby has no awareness of her mom’s chanting, it’s good for mom. And, as the saying goes, “If Mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.