He asked for Yoga classes without Om!

He asked for Yoga classes without Om!

A couple of years back, when I started teaching yoga philosophy I was approached by a Chairman of a big conglomerate to initiate his employees about the discipline and philosophy of yoga. But he wanted yoga classes with no mention of the word Om.

Om has a spiritual significance. Om is one of the most important spiritual sounds. It refers to the atman, i.e the soul or the self within. How do we dissociate it with yoga? And undoubtedly, Yoga is also done to climb the spiritual ladder.

Hindus and non-Hindus are all aware that Om is used as a standard utterance at the beginning of mantras or chants which is from the vedas. So, for some, Om is seen as religious. In 2008, during my vacation, I read an article in Kuala Lumpur where the then Prime Minister stated that Malaysians could continue to practice Yoga as long as they do not chant Om mantra. The fear from other religions today is that people could deviate from their faith if they perform true yoga.  In the United States and Europe, those who have learned true yoga philosophy have converted into Hindus.

Many so-called yoga teachers in the west claim that yoga does not adhere to any particular religion, belief system or community. In fact, this is a wise selling point for them to encourage the non-Hindu community to espouse yoga. In the 20thcentury, some materialistic Indian guru went to the west to teach yoga. With a view to attract them to their respective sect they taught the western people that the origin of yoga is not from Hinduism and religion; and the west believed it.

Let me tell these so-called teachers that Yoga is beautifully sourced and explained in the Upanishad, the cream of the Vedas. The Yogacudamani Upanishad, the Yogattava Upanishad, the Yogakundali Upanishad and the Yogaraja Upanishad written 3000 years ago, contain the guidelines regarding the procedure to awaken the soul power, through the practice of yoga. These are not ordinary books. This sacred literature refers to ‘devotees’ as those who learn and practice yoga, rather than registered members in yoga clubs – as the western model sets today.

The yoga philosophy is the Hindu philosophy. Whether it is a way of life or whatever one may call it; it is a Hindu way of life as per the Hindu philosophy. Now, if people of other religious faith find benefits to it then it is a blessing for them. But Yoga remains a Hindu philosophy.  The same Yoga philosophy teaches devotees of God to see the inner flames of fire by uttering the sound Om. Devotees understand that one’s karmic cycle of birth and death comes to an end only when the soul, body and mind are merged as one, i.e the yogic state. When Kundalini is established in sahasrara chakra, that is called yoga, not only hatha yoga (the physical postures). This is also achieved by uttering the sacred syllable Om during meditation.

On the whole, this leads to a simple self-conclusion that Yoga without the sound Om is only a physical activity, without soul connection. Through experience, I have seen that learners who do not want to utter the sound Om simply do not want to break down the ego. So, how can one learn the philosophy of yoga by nourishing the ego?

When people are far away from religion they still want to find an alternative way to be ‘in’; and fake yoga teachers found an easiest way of doing it by de-spiritualizingyoga and make it convenient to all. Since long, I wanted to understand why there is the need to teach yoga differently. The answer is that true yoga doesn’t suit some. Yoga is being modeled to their own requirement and hence, they now want to take ownership of it. They find the chanting of Om as quite embarrassing, awkward and uncomfortable in the presence others. On the opposite, they ignore that such sound unites everything. For your own experience, I would highly recommend yoga students to chant Om in groups. Chanting of Om in groups produces amazing things at the biochemical level. You feel detached and such continuous experience lead to oneness. The brain cheers up and gets lighter and you feel ecstasy.

To end, I would loudly say that there is no Yoga without Om because there is no Om without Yoga!

Nanda Narrainen

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