I’m a hummer. I hum. I’m always singing under my breath, if not audibly, in my head. (For real. If you see me tapping my foot, or rocking, or moving my fingers for no reason, ask me what song I’m playing. As of late it has been “Jolly Holiday” from Mary Poppins. Makes me feel jaunty.) So, yeah, I hum. I find it therapeutic. And entertaining. (Therapeutic and Entertaining are recurring themes in my Circus of Self-Care, as you shall see.) Guess I knew instinctively one could “Ground yourself with sound.”
Humming comes naturally to me. So when I was first introduced to the practice of OM-ing, it seemed perfectly reasonable. It just made sense to me. I understood it viscerally. (What with the humming and the vibrations and whatnots.) It just makes sense to ground yourself with sound.
Such focus it takes, especially when you are eventually distracted by the half-step-higher note that reverberates through your sinus cavities – along with your original note – and then there’s the “buzzzzzzzzzzzz” these note make when it vibrates the lips in resonance… where was I? Oh, yes, focus… Ground yourself with sound, lol!
Focus is a very powerful force, in and of itself. It is grounding and centering. (< not in a new age-y, woowoo-kinda way, but in a real, physical way. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself and see. Next time you’re feeling like a loosely tethered balloon in a windstorm, do 3 minutes of OM-ing and tell me you don’t feel like you’re feet are planted more firmly on the ground. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
What’s that? you wanna know how it’s done? Patience, Grasshopper. I must tell you more first. In Hindu mythology, “OM” is the word that the Creator intoned to bring about the universe. (Pretty powerful for a 2 letter word, no?) This is the first reason I love OM. (NOTE: This is where the word Ahhhmen comes from. And, I wonder if that’s where we all got “Mom.” My Creator. My Om. M’om. Hmmm…)
The second reason I love Om is that it resonates with me. Like, literally. Actually. Physically. (As in, “Also not in a woowoo way.”) I shall explain: there are a few different components to (my) practice of OM-ing. I didn’t get it right until someone told me, “Don’t spell it O-M, spell it A-U-M.” (This will have architectural significance later in the piece.)
How to Om, in 6 easy steps
Step 1) You start by breathing. Your lungs are pear-shaped, so there’s sooooo much more room at the bottom than at the top. Put your hand on your abdomen for the in breath. With the inhalation, push your hand out. Follow that expansion (with a real or imaginary hand) up through the sternum, to the top of the chest, lengthening across your collarbone.
Step 2) Exhale in reverse, pulling hands in first on chest, then sternum, belly, and abdomen. When you feel comfortable with that, stop looking down at your imaginary hands. It’s on to imaginary jewelry.
Step 3) I want you to imagine that your spine is a string of pearls. Someone is holding you by the clasp at the top of your head, and your spine is hanging effortlessly beneath it. You lengthen and grow taller. You relax your jaw and enjoy them long-tall breaths. And at the top of an inhalation…
Step 4) you sing an “AHHH”, (in whatever note ya like,) at the back of your throat. Imagine that the space is like a tent, and the singing is what holds it up. (“Tent Poles for the Self-Care Circus.”) When you’re about a third of the way through your exhalation, move on to…
Step 5) You “AHHH’d” at the back of the throat, now “OOO” in the middle. But don’t lose the space created with the “AHHH.” (I pretend that the sound is solid and is now occupying that space, it makes it easier to hold it open.) So you “OOO” for approximately another third of that exhalation, and then comes…
Step 6) while still keeping the space that was previously held by “AHHHs” and “OOOs,” finish it up with an “Mmm” for the last third. Your neck and throat are relaxed, your jaw and your lips are closed but relaxed. And you get a pleasant “Buzzzzz” from your lips. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Ground yourself with sound.
So, what then?
First you get the note you OM/AUM, and the buzz from your wonderfully relaxed lips. Then these two start rolling around in the sonic temple you just made with your imaginary tent poles and a song, (which, incidentally, could be the name of my memoir, “Imaginary Tent Poles and a Song”), and these two sounds get some synergy going and bouncing around (via the open throat courtesy of the “AHHH”,) as it whistles through the flute that that is your sinus cavity, it makes another sound! In my case, it’s about a semi-tone higher than the note I’m doing. Ever try and sing when someone is singing off-tune and in your ear? Now imagine that person is in your head, man!
So at first you’ll find yourself following that note and getting higher. But with practice you can hang on to your original note, while also noting the higher note, and the buzz of your lips (the “Mmm” for the last third of the exhalation,) and a buzz in your sinuses. (But that could just be a bean you shoved up there as a kid. Heck, just might rattle that bugger loose.) Ground Yourself with Sound. Grab that note and dig in!
So between the breath, the focus, the lengthening, the relaxing, and the actual, physical vibration you create, it has remarkable benefits. Like I mentioned earlier, it is calming and centering. It helps with your physical alignment. It brings awareness, to the breath, to the body. And as a singer and a speaker and as someone who holds stress and fear in a band around the ENT area, it brings much-needed relaxation. I find when I’m OM-ing, I get less neck aches, less ear aches, and I hit more high notes with more ease than when I don’t OM.
I got the Powah!!! (Ahem.)
The legend behind it reminds me of the power of the word, and how we can create with it. Which makes me watch what I make a little more, which is always a good thing. And if you feel weird about saying a God’s word, try it with something else. (“There’s no place like HAHHH-OOO-Mmm,” while you click your ruby slippers together has the same benefits, but it will get you thrown out of the better temples.) But seriously, there’s no place like Om. Now you, too, can Ground yourself with sound.
Happy OM-ing. Keep collecting tent poles.