Have you ever heard or felt the Om Vibration? Either when chanting Om yourself or hearing others do it? There’s something special about the sound that just resonates at a profound level, even if you don’t know anything about the word or what it means. I registered it the first time I heard it. Though I couldn’t say exactly what was so special about it, I felt an instant calmness wash over me. It was grounding and energizing all at once – like a soothing caress upon my soul. As it turns out, this effect is just one of the many Om Meditation benefits. And it’s one science is paying attention to.
Over the years since, I’ve come to understand the practice much more deeply – from an intellectual standpoint, as well as from my direct experience of its energetic phenomenon. Om chanting is unlike any other meditation practice, transformative in a fascinating and powerful way. Interestingly, it works when repeated silently or out loud. And when a group of people chant together, its effects become amplified.
In today’s post, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about the Om vibration and Om meditation benefits. I’ve gleaned these insights from traditional teachings, my own experience, and researching what recent studies have to say about it. At the end of the article, I’ll also offer some tips to help get you started with your own practice, if you want to try it out for yourself. Because the truth is, this phenomenon can’t be captured fully in words. It’s something you have to experience directly to truly understand.
What Is Om?
Let’s begin with the basics. What is Om? And what does it mean?
Om is an ancient, sacred word from the eastern spiritual traditions of Yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Also spelled AUM, pronouncing it involves a progression through the three sounds of A-U-M (Ahhh-Oooh-Mmmm).
Unlike other words, Om isn’t revered for its intellectual meaning. Instead, the unique quality of each sound emitted when the word is intoned is what makes it so special. These sounds arise as an uninterrupted vibration that begins deep in the throat with A, hovers over the tongue with U, and culminates with bringing the lips together for M. We don’t have to do anything to make these sounds, other than vibrating our vocal chords as we open our mouth and bring it to a close again. And all other sounds we can make are contained within these three most basic vocal seeds. Thus, AUM is known as the primal sound, and it’s considered to be the primordial, ever-humming sound of the universe.
The Om Vibration As Sacred Sound
Spiritual tradition holds that the characteristics of these sounds represent the three forces – creative, sustaining, and destructive – by which the universe and life is expressed. The sound A occurs at the base of the throat – the seat of our voice – and is the first sound we can utter. Therefore, it represents the creative force of the universe. When we make the sound U, we bring the vocal vibration up and forward, holding it over our tongue. This correlates to the sustaining force of the universe.
As we bring our lips together to form the M sound, we bring the Om vibration to its finality. Once we’ve closed our lips, the sound can’t move or morph any further. To change it, we have to open our mouth, creating the A sound again at the back of the throat. So this final sound represents destruction. Together, the three sounds found in AUM intone the full, natural cycle of life, from creation to sustained life to destruction and then creation again.
It’s interesting to note, many other spiritual traditions revere words that contain these same seed sounds as well. Namely, Amen of the Jewish, Christian, and Egyptian religions, and Ameen in Islam. And modern science is increasingly coming to recognize what mystics have long observed:
If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.Nikola Tesla
What Is Om Meditation?
Om meditation means simply meditating on the Om sound by repeating it, either out loud or internally. To do this, many people use a mantra that begins with Om, followed by other Sanskrit words. They may also repeat several repetitions of Om by itself to close their practice. Some examples of commonly used mantras include Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Namah Shivaya, and Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. However, Om can be recited on its own, as well as before and/or after any mantra of your choice.
This mantra repetition is called Japa. When practicing Japa, you can set aside dedicated time to repeat your mantra. One common way of doing this is to use a mala – or strings of beads – to guide you through the completion of 108 recitations. But you can also simply repeat your mantra anytime, anywhere as you’re going about the normal business of your life.
Repeating any mantra is an incredibly effective way to tame your mind. I’ve written about this in more detail in another post, which you can read here if you’re interested. But what we’re going to explore more deeply in this post is the specific Om meditation benefits, with an added focus on the Om Vibration that occurs during vocal chanting of this potent sound.
Om Meditation Benefits
As I mentioned previously, when I first heard Om chanting, it had a mesmerizing effect on me. It was in a group setting, and as the voices rose and fell in rhythmic unity, I felt instantly soothed. I had limited knowledge about Om meditation and its benefits. And being a rather shy person at the time, using my voice in this foreign way – especially in a group setting – felt uncomfortable to me. So I joined in quietly, hesitantly at first. But after a few rounds, my throat opened up, and my inhibitions dropped away from me. At the end of it, I walked away feeling like I was glowing from the inside-out.
The whole experience intrigued me, and in time, I began working with mantra repetition myself. In my practice, I use Om Mani Padme Hum, which I often repeat inwardly to myself while doing mindless tasks throughout the day. I also recite it vocally during daily dedicated practice, concluding with several prolonged Om chants. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now, and I’ve come to appreciate the vocal expression – in particular the Om sound at the end of my practice – as an energetically aligning phenomenon unlike any other experience I’ve encountered.
The Om Vibration As Healing Sound
While it’s difficult to put into words, I like to think of Om chanting as a form of sound therapy, which uses instruments such as tuning forks, singing bowls, gongs and binaural beats to affect the mind and nervous system in healing ways. If you’ve ever experienced a sound bath session or heard a singing bowl resonate its powerful hum, you may know what I’m talking about here. When I do my vocal Om meditation, I can feel myself vibrating internally, just like these instruments. Only I’m using my body to create my own self-healing sound.
I call this the Om vibration, and it has several pronounced effects on my body-mind-spirit system.
Om Vibration Benefits
First, it produces the instant feeling of calm I already mentioned. In fact, when I first started my practice, this was the only recognizable benefit I experienced. I wasn’t expecting anything more, and this wonderfully healing result was enough to keep me coming back again and again to my practice. However, over time, I began to notice another, far more fascinating effect emerging.
As my Om meditation practice progressed, I began to experience the inner vibration generated during my chanting as a gently purifying force. Not only could I feel the subtle energy in my system far more distinctly, but that energy felt pure and light. All trace of nervous or heavy energy (or any other negative or imbalanced energetic state) simply dissipated.
With this energetic alignment, a feeling of lightness uplifted me at the same time a steadiness undergirded me. A radiance I can only describe as sweet infused my whole being. And while it seems odd to describe a light as being sweet, it’s the only word that ever comes to mind when I try to grasp it. It’s almost like I can taste or smell it. But in truth, I can’t clarify it with any of my senses.
Om Meditation Benefits Unfold Of Their Own Accord
Now, I didn’t go into my Om meditation practice seeking these benefits. In fact, I wasn’t even aware these were potential fruits. They unfolded entirely of their own accord, and still do whenever I intone the Om vibration. I could liken the experience to planting a seed in the ground without knowing what kind of seed it is. Maybe knowing it’s a flower, but not exactly which kind of flower. Nevertheless, watering it daily. Then suddenly, it sprouts and eventually blooms, and now you can see – ah, that’s what was contained in that little seed.
What I discovered from watering the sacred seed-sound of Om is a flower so pristinely beautiful it emits the sweetest perfume I’ve ever smelled. And from its center, instead of pollen, a glowing light emanates.
That’s my interpretation, based on my own experience of Om meditation. Spiritual tradition tells us Om meditation can bring about realization of our Higher Self (Atman). It calms and focuses the mind, removes negative emotions, and cleanses our aura. When chanted out loud, it can purify the environment around us, shifting the energy in a room to positivity. But what can science tell us about this phenomenon?
Research-Based Om Meditation Benefits
One of the most profound effects I’ve noticed arise from my yoga and meditation practices is a rewiring or re-attuning of my nervous system. When I say that, I’m describing my felt experience. I don’t know exactly what has happened to my nervous system. And I haven’t been able to find scientific studies that fully explain it. But I know it’s been fundamentally altered, because I respond to life circumstances and environmental cues in an entirely different way than I did years ago – without having to think about it.
Many studies have attested to the physical and mental health benefits of these practices, which is why they’re quickly gaining traction in healthcare settings. Now, scientific inquiry seems to be turning toward figuring out how they work, with some studies already beginning to offer some insight. One such study, published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, looked at how Om chanting might be connected to the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, with its vagal tone, seems to be the closest correlation science has to offer to what I’ve observed within myself – a re-attuning of my nervous system.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation During Om Meditation
The recent introduction of Vagus Nerve Stimulation as a treatment option for depression and epilepsy inspired the Om chanting study mentioned above. Other studies have shown that stimulating the vagus nerve results in decreased activation of the limbic system, which is the part of the brain involved in our emotional responses to our environment. The vagus nerve is our automatic regulator. It’s the main component of our parasympthetic nervous system, which returns us to a state of calm relaxation after a fight-or-flight response. And it’s involved in a wide variety of functions, including digestion, heart rate, immune response, and control of our moods.
So, what does this have to do with Om chanting? A common sensation felt during Om vocalization is vibration in the head and ears. The vagus nerve has auricular (ear) branches. Therefore, this study hypothesized that chanting Om might stimulate the vagus nerve, producing a similar deactivation of the limbic system. And indeed, it did.
This is significant, because low vagal tone (or a less active vagus nerve) is associated with decreased capacity to deal with stress, poor digestion, elevated heart rate, and less stable moods. Stimulating the vagus nerve is good for our whole system. And Om chanting does this. It seems likely this phenomenon explains – at least partly – the Om vibration’s notable calming effect.
Other Research-Backed Om Meditation Benefits
Another study compared Om meditation when practiced out loud and internally, by both experienced and inexperienced practitioners. Here’s what they found:
- Chanting Om increases positive mood, decreases negative mood, and improves attention.
- Om repetition in a group setting increases altruism. (This effect was more pronounced for vocal chanting than silent repetition.)
- Interestingly, the inexperienced mantra practitioners in this study gained more benefits from vocal chanting than silent, inward repetition.
The National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology published a study that found five minutes of Om chanting resulted in “highly significant” reduction in blood pressure and significant reduction of pulse rate in participants with hypertension. They concluded the practice can be recommended as “supportive therapy” for hypertension patients. And when you consider the connection between high blood pressure and stress, this finding holds import. The study closes with the following statement:
“In the present scenario of higher stress in routine life, 5 min Om chanting can be incorporated in the routine of school-going children and adults to reduce the overall prevalence of HTN (hypertension) in the country.”
Of course, these studies focus on what can be measured objectively – markers such as blood pressure, heart rate, and functional imaging of changes in the brain. They offer some insight into the benefits of Om meditation. But at least for now, science tells us only a fraction of the story. As I said at the start of this post, to really understand the Om vibration and realize the full extent of Om meditation benefits, you have to explore the practice directly.
Starting An Om Meditation Practice
If these Om meditation benefits intrigue you, and you want to start your own practice, it’s easy to do. All you have to do is select a mantra that appeals to you. You can choose to work with Om by itself, or you can choose a mantra that begins with Om. You can also use any other mantra that feels meaningful for you. Then close your practice with several repetitions of Om. If you’re not sure what mantra to use, you can find options at the following resources:
- A Beginner’s Guide To Essential Sanskrit Mantras
- A Chopra Center Guide to 9 Powerful Mantras
- Shakti Mantras
Set aside at least ten minutes a day for your Japa meditation practice. You can repeat your mantra inwardly to yourself or out loud, and if you like, use a mala to guide you through 108 repetitions. This is considered to be a sacred number, which is why malas contain 108 beads – one bead for each recitation – plus one larger bead. You can use the larger bead to close your practice with several vocal chants of Om.
I have found using a mala helps keep me focused on my mantra. Completing the full round of 108 repetitions gives my mind time to let go of distractions and fully settle into the meditation. Whether I’m practicing out loud or inwardly, by the end of it, I feel energetically realigned. Additionally, repeating my mantra inwardly at different times throughout the day helps me connect to the present moment, access my calm center, and clear any negative or agitated energy that may arise within me.
Om Meditation Tips
- Before starting your mantra meditation, take a few moments to center yourself by focusing on your breath.
- Sit with a long spine and relaxed shoulders.
- Contemplate the meaning of your mantra before beginning your repetitions, setting the intention to align energetically with it.
- Anchor yourself by focusing on the connection between your bottom and the ground beneath you. Or, if you’re seated in a chair, by focusing on the connection between your feet and the floor. This creates a stable energetic base as you begin to work with the subtle energy in your system through mantra repetition.
- When chanting Om, hold the vibration of each sound (A-U-M) for a moment before moving to the next. This allows each sound to resonate through your whole body-mind-spirit system. Then hold a little space of silence at the end before starting the next round.
- After chanting Om, you can meditate in silence if you want. Your body-mind-spirit system is perfectly aligned for it. But if not, be sure to sit quietly at least for a few moments to let your system bask in your inner glow, attuning itself to the Om vibration.
Om chanting and mantra meditation can create dramatic shifts in your body-mind-spirit system. It produces immediate calming, centering and uplifting effects – feelings of bliss beginners can access right from the start. And over time, it reconfigures how you function at the physical, mental, and energetic levels. That calm, centered, positive state gradually becomes your normal. And when stress arises, it’s much easier to return to this state of poise.
The Om vibration is beautiful, transformative, and difficult to describe with words. But the quote below comes pretty close:
You are a cosmic flower. Om chanting is the process of opening the psychic petals of that flower.Amit Ray
May your practice bring you peace, and may it blissfully and vibrantly align you with your Higher Self. Namaste.