Science behind OM mantra.

Today, lets study the science behind OM mantra.

One of the most popular misconception about “OM” is that it is religious. On the contrary, it is the most universal syllable because it neither refers to any particular religion nor God. There have been several theories behind the OM mantra with the most popular explanation being that it was the cosmic sound which initiated the creation of universe (big bang theory). But that alone would not have been sufficient to turn it into a regular practice in Indian culture.

As with most of the traditional practices followed in India, this also has a scientific and practical explanation (based on the physics of sound, vibrations & resonance) with some long term benefit and we shall find out what it really is.

chakras

What is mantra?
In its most rudimentary form, a mantra is made of syllables which exert their influence by means of sound (vibrations). As one would have personally experienced, different syllables have different vibration patterns which affect different parts of the body. Each syllable resonates with certain organ or part of the body.

For example, by chanting “aaaaaaa”, one can feel the sensation and hence resonance of nervous system in the stomach and chest region. Chanting “ooooo” creates sensations in throat & chest region and resonates with them. Similarly, chanting/humming “mmmm” resonates with the nasal cavity as well as skull/brain region.

Here is a short clip in which a Doctor explains the same:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WAgbYYcCkE

What happens when we concatenate (join together) the above syllables into one mantra? We get the AUM mantra which when chanted sequentially activates the stomach, spinal cord, throat, nasal and brain regions. The energy moves from the abdomen all the way up to the brain, thereby channelizing energy and activating the spinal cord & brain.

Following is an excerpt from a research paper which shows the waveform of A-U-M mantra made up of 3 syllables.

AUM_waveforms
Research paper:
http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/9347/1/IJTK%203(2)%20154-161.pdf

One of the most popular claims made by Yogis is that chanting Om mantra improves our concentration, gives peace and steadiness to our mind, reduces mental stress and clears all worldly thoughts. Although those who practice it regularly would have experienced it first hand and affirm the same, scientists were curious to find out more about it and verify such claims with the help of science & technology.

Few years ago, scientists conducted an experiment in which participants who had never chanted Om mantra were asked to chant it for few minutes and each of their chants were recorded. The time frequency analysis of it showed irregular waveforms which indicated unsteadiness in the mind. They were asked to chant the mantra on a regular basis and after few days, the experiment was repeated. The time-frequency analysis this time had some startling revelations. The waveforms were improved with regular spacing, had almost perfect symmetry and harmony. Not only had these participants witnessed dramatic improvements in focus, concentration & steadiness, but found themselves to be in peace, witnessed reduction in mental stress & could remain calm all the time.

time_frequency_analysis
Research paper:

http://paper.ijcsns.org/07_book/200808/20080825.pdf

In another such instance, scientists conducted experiments to study the effect of Om mantra on nervous system through repeated practice. Using sophisticated software tools, mathematical transforms were applied to raw samples of the chantings and similar results (improvements in focus concentration, steadiness, peace, reduction in stress etc) were observed.
spectrogram_analysis
Research paper:

http://paper.ijcsns.org/07_book/200901/20090151.pdf

In another experiment, scientists analyzed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans (f-MRI scans) before & after Om mantra chanting and concluded that regular chanting of Om mantra can treat depression & epilepsy as well.

resonance_imaging_png
Research paper:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099099/

Recent findings in the medical field confirms that chanting can lower blood pressure.

chants_bp
News Report:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1258234/Chants-fine-thing-It-sound-daft-doctors-believe-meditation-really-lower-blood-pressure.html

Another research at molecular level reveals that chanting Om can even alter genes for better well-being!!

om_genes
News report:

http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/05/genes-altered-after-relaxation-practice

Research paper:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0062817

Hence, based on scientific experiments & research studies, we can now confirm the age old claims made by Yogis that chanting Om mantra reduces mental stress, cures depression, improves focus & concentration, calms the mind and leads to better well-being, peace & happiness.

25 Valuable Benefits Of The OM Mantra

  • Chanting of the Om Mantra purifies the environment around you and creates positive vibrations.
  • The Om not only benefits the person who is chanting it but also to the people around them wherever its vibrations flow.
  • It cleanses your aura.
  • Your concentration increases when you chant this universal hymn.
  • The ॐ chanting removes toxin from your body. It is said to give you better immunity and self-healing power.
  • It improves your concentration and helps you focus on whatever your goals may be.
  • The chanting actually improves your voice by giving strength to your vocal cords and the muscles around it. This is very helpful during old age.
  • The ॐ chanting produces a vibration and sound which is felt through your vocal cords and sinuses. The vibrations open up the sinuses to clear the airways.
  • The Om Mantra has cardiovascular benefits – by relaxing our mind and body, our blood pressure will decrease and our heart will beat with regular rhythm.
  • Through chanting and meditation, you can have better control over your emotions, thus allowing you to see situations with a clear and rational mind.
  • Regular chanting of this Mantra will take you on a spiritual journey to greater happiness and positivity, but only if it is done daily for a longer period of time. Mantras are not and overnight fix to your problems – you must have patience and learn the correct techniques.
  • When the OM Mantra is chanted in a group, the effects are amplified and this will produce immense positive vibrations which charge up the entire vicinity.
  • Some people have also claimed to lose weight through ॐ chanting as it puts your entire body in a heightened state of sensitivity – its vibrations are thought to stimulate your metabolism which would lead to weight loss.
  • It has been our experience that Om can even help cleanse your skin. The massive levels of internal positive energy and a cleansed aura that come from chanting the Om Mantra regularly will be reflected externally with a sunny glow on your face and body.
  • Your spinal cord is strengthened through the vibrations caused by sound of Aaaa. As this sound is generated from abdomen, it helps to strenthen the supporting muscles of the spinal cord.
  • The sound uuu is created by vocal cords which benefit the thyroid glands and the throat.
  • It is said that rubbing your hands together while ॐ chanting and putting those charged hands on different parts of body heals or activates those body parts.
  • If those energy charged hands are put on your eyes, your eye sight will start improving.

Om is called the sound of one hand clapping. Om is the eternal sound; Om is the sound which is there in the universe all the time.

All the saints in the past, when they went deep into meditation, they just heard Om. So, Om means many things. It means love, eternity, purity, peace. Om is made up of several dhatus: ah-ooh-ma. Just ‘ah’ has 19 meanings.

You can derive some several thousand meanings from Om. All those meanings are attributed to Om, soOm is the seed of the whole creation; Om is the sound of creation.

In Bible too, it is said, ‘In the beginning there was a word and the word was with God and the word was God’. That is Om.

There they don’t say which word; the word is Om.

It is in all the religions in some or the other form. That is the true name, ‘Ek Omkar Sat Naam’. Om means truth. It is the name of the infinity or the Divinity. It means love. It is the origin of the universe. There is a beautiful verse in the Guru Granth Sahib, which begins with ‘Ek Omkar Sat Naam, Karta Purakh’ – FromOm everything has come, in Om everything dwells, and into Om everything will dissolve; both matter and consciousness.

The best thing is that it is a complete vibration. ‘Ah’ – affects the lower part of the body, ‘Ooh’ – affects the middle part, ‘Mm’ – affects the upper part. The total prana is represented by one syllable Om. Before birth, we were part of that sound and after death we will merge with that sound; the sound of the spirit. So, you can say many things about Om; there is a whole Upanishad, the Mandukya Upanishad, which is all about Om.

Now, why don’t we take only Om as a mantra? Why do we need any other mantra to chant during meditation? Before meditation, you chant Om and create the vibration, but for meditation you need different mantras. Just Om is not used; Hari Om or Om Namah Shivaya, or something else is used along with Om.

Only recluses, those who want to do nothing with the world, or are very old are allowed to do chant Om. Those who don’t have anything to do with the world only they are allowed to do just Om. Even then, it is not advisable.

In an early study, middle latency auditory evoked potentials (0-100 ms range) were examined in seven proficient subjects before and during the practice of Om meditation.[14] Such a study helped in understanding how neural processing at various levels could change differently during a meditation practice in which thoughts are focused on a word or phrase without a conscious effort to do so (i.e., meditation on the syllable Om). Similar records were also obtained in seven age-matched “naive” subjects before and during a control period which involved sitting with eyes closed, and with no special instructions for focusing their thoughts. However, there was a small but consistent reduction in the peak latency of the Nb wave (the maximum negativity occurring between 35 and 65 ms). This reduction was observed consistently during three repeat sessions of each subject, while the “naive” subjects did not show this change. These results suggest that during meditation, neural processing at the middle latency auditory evoked potentials level does change and the intersubject variability of middle latency auditory evoked potentials precludes using them as the method of choice for assessing the effects of meditation. Hence middle latency auditory evoked potentials demonstrate small, yet significant changes in the neural activity during meditations.

A subsequent study assessed the effects of OM meditation on middle latency auditory evoked potentials. The experienced meditators showed a significant increase in the peak amplitude of the Na wave (the maximum negative peak between 14 and 18 ms) during the meditation with a significant decrease in the Na wave peak amplitude during the control session [Figure 1]. Hence during mental repetition of a meaningful syllable (Om) and of a neutral syllable (One), neural changes occurred at the same level (possibly diencephalic) though in opposite directions. To detail this, a significant increase in the peak amplitude of the Na wave occurred during mental chanting of Om compared to a significant decrease in the Na wave peak amplitude during a control period of mental chanting of a neutral syllable One. It is recognized that an increase in amplitude is correlated with an increase in the number of neurons recruited, whereas a decrease in amplitude has the reverse connotations.

Figure 1

Experienced meditattors versus non-meditators:Importance of motivation. (Typical example of AEP-MLRs during meditation in an experienced subject (left,12 years experience) and a novice (right, 10 days experience). Telles et al. 1994, Internal J. Neurosci.)

Studies conducted by Telles and Desiraju and Telles et al. reported changes in peak latencies of middle latency auditory evoked potential components which reflect changes at subcortical and primary auditory cortex levels. These were suggestive of a decrease in sensory transmission time at these neural levels during the practice of meditation on Om.[14,15]

Summary

Scientific studies on Om suggest that the mental repetition of Om results in a physiological state at one time characterized by reduced physiological alertness, increased sensitivity as well as synchronicity, as well as changes at specific levels along the auditory pathway suggestive of increased sensitivity to sensory transmission.

CONCLUSION

The utterance of Om consisting of the three letters A, U, and M covers the whole process of articulation. This sound represents the primal vibration from which all other sounds and creation emerge. It is considered that one who attains Om, merges with the Absolute. Scientific studies on Om suggest that the mental repetition of Om results in physiological alertness, increased sensitivity as well as synchronicity of certain biorhythms, and an increased sensitivity to sensory transmission.

The OM mantra is a universally chanted mantra even though it has its origin in Sanatana Dharma. The fact that it has spread and transcended various boundaries clearly shows and proves it significance.

There are 2 scientific explanations to why the OM mantra is widely practiced.

1. When the Om mantra is chanted, the frequency of the vibrations is said to be 432Hz which happens to be the vibrational frequency of everything in the universe. This scientific finding is the justification of the saying ‘in harmony with the being’.
2. Not to long ago, scientists conducted a research in which the subjects had never chanted Om mantra were asked to chant it for few minutes and each of their chants were recorded. The time frequency analysis of it showed irregular waveforms which indicated unsteadiness in the mind. They were requested to chant the mantra frequently for a few days, the experiment was repeated. The time-frequency analysis this time had some surprising insights. The waveforms were improved with regular spacing, had almost perfect symmetry and harmony. Not only had these participants witnessed dramatic improvements in focus, concentration & steadiness, but found themselves to be in peace, witnessed reduction in mental stress & could remain calm all the time.

REFERENCES

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11. Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Autonomic changes during ‘OM’ meditation. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1995;39:418–20. [PubMed]
12. Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Autonomic changes while mentally repeating two syllables-one meaningful and the other neutral. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998;42:57–63.[PubMed]
13. Bernardi L, Sleight P, Bandinelli G, Cencetti S, Fattorini L, WdowczycSzulc J, et al. Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: Comparative study. Br Med J. 2001;323:22–9. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
14. Telles S, Desiraju T. Recording of auditory middle latency evoked potentials during the practice of meditation with the syllable ‘OM’ Indian J Med Res. 1993;98:237–9. [PubMed]
15. Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Alterations in auditory middle latency evoked potentials during meditation on a meaningful symbol ‘OM’ Int J Neurosci. 1994;76:87–93.[PubMed]
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