OM (AUM, OHM) is a mantra that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and the end of each yoga session, and I aim to keep this tradition!
Om is said to be the heartbeat of the entire universe. The sounds vibrate on a frequency of 432 Hz, the same as everything in Nature, so when we chant this mantra we acknowledge our connectedness to everything and everyone around us. Om lifts the vibration around the person chanting!
New students can feel self-conscious about whether they are doing it right, but let me tell you there is no wrong or right. When we chant Om in a group, it creates a conscious connection with everyone in the room, and at the same time it a deeply personal spiritual practice. It sets the tone for the class, and at the end, it reminds us once again that our practice is sacred. For those of you who might worry: It has nothing to do with religion or sects.
On a more practical level, chanting Om enables us to breathe deeper, by extending our exhales. By chanting Om during our exhales, we lengthen the exhales, which triggers a relaxation response. Repeating OM can be a focus for your personal meditation.