I have a confession to make – I’m om shy. Oh, I can om with the best of them in a classroom setting but when it comes to leading others in the chant or vocalizing a mantra in my own meditation practice, well, I’d prefer not to.
My husband loves the om and used to pester me about adding it to my classes when I was teaching yoga regularly. Ok, I’d say, then conveniently run out of time at the end of class.
I actually quite like the om. There is something really great about feeling it surround you from all sides, ripple up your spine, and fill your chest. The collective om is an energy I feel comfortable tapping into. There’s strength in numbers. But the solo om has never been my thing.
Ayurveda expert, Dr. Siva Mohan, explains that chanting aloud is more powerful in groups, but when you chant alone, you can say the mantras quietly in your head. That’s all the permission I need. No mater what mantra I add to my meditation practice (om, shanti, lokah samasta…) I stay quiet.
In preparation for a natural, unmedicated birth, I picked up midwife trailblazer, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. I learned that she encourages women to make long moaning sounds during labor – not unlike an orgasm or the mooing of a cow – sounds low enough to vibrate the chest.
Hmmmm, I thought. Not unlike an om.
According to Gaskin, there is a direct connection between the throat the vagina. Ahem! That is, there is a direct connection between the 2nd and 5th chakra. “A relaxed mouth means a more elastic cervix. Women whose mouths and throats are open and relaxed during labor and birth rarely need stitches after childbirth.” Well, I like the sound of that.
She calls this the Law of the Sphincter. (Yes, I said sphincter.)
While Gaskin has coined this term after years of experience assisting women through labor and childbirth, she is not far off from what psychological research has discovered. A study at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India found that chanting the word om actually deactivated areas of the brain associated with depression. Perhaps it is the long moaning /au/ sound of the om that does it. Maybe its the humming vibrations of the drawn out mmmmmm. Or it could be a combination of both. Whatever it is, it’s working.
Meditation expert, Lorin Roche, says that om is the sound of the universe. It is a respectful assent meaning, “yes, verily, so be it.” Translated into plain English, it means “Hell yeah!” He says the universe is continually “singing itself into existence” with this single syllable, this “roar of joy that sets the universe in motion.”
Roar of joy. That sounds about right.
When I imagine giving birth, I imagine myself quite peaceful and composed, something like my yoga teacher persona. I am glowing the way you do when everyone around you is sweating and pushing themselves to the edge. I’m speaking in that slow, yoga teacher voice that puts everyone around you at ease. I am strong and confident that our son will arrive in divine time…
…except it won’t look like that at all. I’ll be the one at the edge, doing all the work. Oh yes, I’ll be strong but I may not be confident. I’ll be sweaty, really sweaty and I’ll be trying my best to hold on to that peaceful, composed self. And instead of gracefully ducking out of the om, I’m going to have to tap into my higher power and let loose the biggest and best om of my life.
I could have been working on this as a yoga instructor for years. Instead, I have simply avoided it, choosing to end class with a smile and a namaste. No amount of namaste is going to get me through natural childbirth. I know in my gut, it’s om or nothing.
Om is the birth of something, the close of something. It’s the echo of our soul’s deepest desire. I don’t know why I’ve been so om shy all this time. It sounds like a secret weapon every yogi should keep close at hand. So, in that moment when I draw on every feminine power the universe has to offer, will I be moaning om?
Yes, verily, so be it.
I mean, hell yes!
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