How chanting Aum can change your mind

The repetition of the syllable “Om” or “Aum” has long been practised by people throughout India to help calm the mind and to maintain a relaxed state.

The sound Aum is considered an audible symbol of the energy that sustains our lives, energy that has been there since time immemorial, continues today, and will be there until the end. It is made using three letters from Sanskrit  ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’ and, quite neatly, they correspond to the beginning, the middle and the end of the Sanskrit alphabet.  

In the 1980s I remember watching A Country Practice as a very sensible young girl and seeing Shirley, who had recently returned from a trip to India, listening to the drone of a harmonium sitting under an aluminium pyramid draped in baubles and flowing skirts chanting Aum. Needless to say, I thought she was loopy.

However, as I grew up and travelled around the world I began to see links between the chanting of Aum – minus a few of Shirley’s accoutrements – and others across the world. The Gregorian chants of Medieval Europe, still sung in Spain today, are just one example. Eventually I plucked up the nerve to try it for myself, and found that, sure enough, it did help calm my mind and clarify my thinking.

Research is now backing up the experience of those with faith enough to experiment on themselves have known for centuries. On the psychological level, studies in both the West and India have shown that different brain states are triggered depending on the way in which one chants.

Chanting in a medium pitch is highly energising and improves psycho-motor skills. Chanting the beginning sound of ‘Ah’ for a greater length of time tends to extrovert the chanter, whereas brain circulation and relaxation increase when one chants in a low pitch and holds the final ‘mmm’ part for as long as is comfortable. Studies in the USA have also shown that chanting Aum can help with sinusitis, as the humming of ‘mmmm’ causing small vibrations in the sinuses helping to cleanse them.

So, thanks to science, a few more of the secrets of Yoga have been unlocked for the benefit of sceptical Western minds like mine!

Image by Mamjodh

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