You’ve probably been asked to chant “Aum” at the end or beginning of a yoga class. Here’s the breakdown so you can “Aum” with confidence:

Say “ahhhhh” like you’d say for the doctor, or like in the word “father.” Notice where you feel that sound vibrating in your body. Probably in the abdomen somewhere. Do this a few times.

Next, just like you’d say in “who,” say “ouuuuuu.” Repeat a few times, trying to sense where the body vibrates. Most likely in the chest/throat. Try to make an “O” shape with the lips.

Then say “mmmmmmmmm.” Less like “mmm-mm” to cookies, and more like “hmmmm” when you’re thinking about something. You’ll probably feel this sound vibrating on your lips, and with practice, you might feel the space between the eyebrows, the crown of the head, or the entire head vibrating. Repeat a few times to get the hang of it.

Finally, there is a period of silence after each “Aum” which is very important- it is said to vibrate above the head, symbolizing that which is beyond thinking.

So go ahead and put it all together, giving roughly equal duration to “ahh,” “ouuu,” and “mmm,” preceding a moment of meditative silence.  Of course, some traditions recommend different durations, such as making the “mmm” rather short… perhaps try it out figure out what your preference is. Aum loudly, softly, silently, in the dark, in your car, by yourself, in the shower, before meditation, and as often as possible.

If you’re interested in some deeper explanations of “Aum,” consider this:

– Realms of experience: “Ahh” represents the waking state, “ouuu” represents the dreaming state, “mmm” represents the deep sleep state, and silence represents the spiritually awakened state.

– Levels of mind: “Ahh” represents the conscious mind, “ouuu” represents the subconscious, “mmm” represents unconscious, and silence represents super-consciousness.

– Realms of time: “Ahh” represents the present, “ouuu” represents the past, “mmm” represents the future, and silence represents timelessness.

– Everything and beyond: If we hold E= mc2 to be true, all matter is simply an expression of energy. At matter’s tiniest level, it’s simply a vibrating particle or string. Many believe that the vibration of these super tiny strings or particles of energy that form all matter and all life resonate with “Aum.”  The ancient Mandukya Upanishad describes “Aum” as a primordial vibration, symbolizing everything manifested in the universe (yet originating from the un-manifested universe). Think big bang. Or think New Testament: “In the beginning was the word…”

Meditate on that.

For more details, read this or find a scientist, psychiatrist, or ideally a guru such as Dharma Mittra in NYC.