June 8, 2012

Embarrassed to Om. ~ Joey Soto

I try to offer at least one Om (believed to be one of the first sounds of life in our universe) during my yoga classes.

Sometimes it’s a crackling, barely there sound from students, while other times it’s a thunderous loud roar. I too recall feeling uncomfortable during my first couple “Oms” (when I actually had the gusto to participate after secretly pretending several times).

As a teacher, I now find myself encouraging students to, “use the voice that God gave you and let it out!”  “Om-ing” is so important for moving vibration through our chakras and clearing stagnant energy out.

Why are we so self-conscious of our own voice?

I understand that it can be intimidating if you’re sitting next a trained professional singer; but let’s be honest, we all don’t have the gift of a Grammy-award winning voice. However, our voice is from God and the sound we make is a critical component of the collective sound/vibration that fills the room with each Om.

My fellow yogi, Jennifer Pastiloff, always tells her students that everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to be thinking about you; people think about us less than we think. In reality, no one is really listening to each other’s Om; we’re listening to ourselves.

To Om is liberating. It’s a shout out to our true selves as well as a way to support our fellow yogis during the yoga practice.

The power of the Om is deep. I had an interesting experience recently while “Om-ing” where I felt my voice was coming from somewhere beyond this world. The sound coming out of my mouth suddenly didn’t sound like my talking voice but rather felt like it was coming from some place deeper. I think many of us have witnessed a marvelous musician or singer sharing his/her craft and it appears like it’s coming from the grace of God. They seem to go someplace else in their head while the crowd is moved.

I believe we can tap into our own piece of the divine as we Om. Allow the Om to be soothing to the soul, to cleanse the sticky stuff you’re holding onto and to allow you let go of it.

I was recently at a friend’s birthday gathering and engrossed in an interesting conversation with a court counselor who works with individuals placed on court ordered probation. He said he has his clients write down names of people they want to forgive. He gave the example of how Pope John Paul II visited his attempted assassin in prison and called him “brother,” a gesture of sheer forgiveness.

It is frightening to let something go. Perhaps this is the uneasiness that arises when asked to Om in yoga class. We are really being asked to release something from our soul, to let go, so that there is space to fill with new growth.” Om-ing” is like cleaning out your closet; one needs to remove old items in order to make space for new. Out with the old, in with the new!

If you still feel a bit uneasy about “Om-ing” in class, consider practicing it in the shower, which is fun and the acoustics make it sound really boisterous. You can start with a subtle humming and expand it into a full sound once you’re ready. Even better, challenge your partner or friend to Om with you.

Approach your Om just like a challenging yoga pose. Remove the challenge by making it playful.

When you Om, bring your mind’s eye to the base of the spine (the root chakra) and focus on unfettering that which no longer serves you. Another way to think about the power of “Om-ing” is to consider that our bodies consist of 90% water. When you Om, the sound has a ripple effect as it vibrates throughout your body and sends energy out to the world. We are walking vibrations! What better way to bring balance to yourself and those around you than to Om.

The next time you Om in class do it with joy, knowing that your sound is sending healing vibrations from the inside out. Own your Om today!


Joey Soto has been writing for change over the last decade through her work as a water resources consultant and grant writer, crafting compelling stories to win funding for environmental projects. Breaking free from her corporate career, she became a Yoga Alliance certified yoga instructor in Santa Monica, CA. Her experience practicing yoga throughout the world and teaching yoga in Rome, Italy, instilled a firm dedication to foster a global yogic community as well as enhance the local community, one yoga class at a time. Ms. Soto shares her experiences on her website, www.sotoyoga.com.
Editor: Cassandra Smith

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