The other day one of my students commented that whenever we chant OM it reminds her of an orchestra tuning up before a performance. This idea of chanting OM and tuning an orchestra struck a chord in me. It made me think that by chanting OM we tune up with ourselves, each other, and the entire universe. Truly this is the essence of yoga.
So, I gotta talk about the orchestra first. I’ve witness and performed in many orchestras and to hear or perform in a perfectly tuned orchestra creates a magical feeling. When aligned, an orchestra transforms from several individuals, sometimes more than 75 or 100 people, all with different instruments, into one immense voice. If just one instrument in that orchestra is even slightly out of tune, like some errant, patchouli-smelling, long-haired clarinet player, all that magic that comes from being aligned is lost. I’ve seen conductors turn purple, completely lose their shit, and almost have a coronary arrest over the smallest deviation in intonation. They should make a law that mandates defibrillators be stowed under conductors’ stands for such occurrences. I’m sure the conductor gets so bent because when the orchestra is perfectly in tune, the effect creates a feeling that is completely euphoric! Nothing feels more natural and beautiful and we want that feeling always. I believe that we all deeply desire to be in tune whether it’s tonally, philosophically, spiritually or any other way, and if you have ever experienced that magic, anything less than pure alignment becomes intolerable. Ready your defibrillators . . .CLEAR!
How do we get in tune in body, mind, and spirit? Yoga tunes us personally as well as tunes us with everything around us. Understanding how an orchestra tunes might give us some insight into how we tune using our yoga practice. For an orchestra to get in tune, most often the lead violinist will stand and play a single note, an A, and everyone else in the orchestra will tune to that note as the standard. Sorry for getting a tad technical here but that A can be verified by an electric tuner which measures a sound wave by its vibrations per second, a measurement called Hurtz (abbreviated as hz), named after a dude. Today, an A is measured as 440hz. I say “today” because A hasn’t always been A. What I mean is that A as 440hz is a frequency that was internationally agreed upon to be the “official” A as late as 1953. People have experimented (and still do) with several different tunings for A, but back in the day, I’m talkin’ in the heyday of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach—those cats—A sounded a little different. It sounded just a tad lower. Back then, it was common that A was tuned to around 432hz. That may sound like splitting hairs but speaking of hair, hearing the contrast between A as 440hz and A as 432hz will make the hair stand up on your ears. That or make your orchestra conductor start to lather and have heart palpitations. And you can decide for yourself, but the A as 432hz sounds better. It feels better.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why is because of PHI. A at 432hz is a product of PHI; A at 440hz isn’t. That and modern science confirms that the natural sound of the universe is A as 432hz. I even heard it on NPR not too long ago. For millennia yogis have been saying that OM is the sound of everything in the universe. This assertion was both philosophical and scientific and yogis weren’t alone. Even if they weren’t chanting OM, scientists, mathematicians, and artists like Kepler, Pythagoras, Galileo, and Davinci, all understood PHI, the underlying math magic that makes A as 432hz so harmonizing with the universe. PHI is known as the Golden Mean, the naturally occurring number represented ubiquitously in nature, 1.6180339887. . . . PHI is a number that creates a ratio seen in everything from the movement of galaxies, to the human form, the Fibonacci Sequence, light waves, time, our DNA, and sound waves, to name a just a few. People have been studying and using PHI for thousands of years. Ancient buildings were designed and constructed often using PHI.
Philosophically, yogis say that OM means the sound of everything together. It was described to me by a Sanskrit scholar that the word OM is the combination of the first of the Sanskrit vowels, O, and the last of the Sanskrit consonants, M. Therefore, these two act like bookends that hold between them everything that could be said in that language. According to yogis, OM is everything. By chanting OM we become like an orchestra, all different members aligning not only with one another as we practice yoga but together as we chant OM, we also align with the world and entire universe in adding our voice to all that is. If we get technical, we can even align ourselves with what scientists call the vibrational frequency of the universe and literally tune in with the universe. What is yoga other than understanding and aligning ourselves as an important member of this vast and beautiful universe? Om is about belonging. It’s OM sweet OM.
So, I invite you to come and tune your vibration of body, mind, and heart as we practice yoga, chanting, and meditation. Like the violinist of an orchestra, I’ll help show you the standard and we will all tune up, becoming one larger organism. We’ll start by chanting the word OM and bring ourselves into alignment with each other and with all things. As we practice, we will feel the effortless effects of working in harmony with the universe instead of against it. And just like when everything is in tune, the feeling will be pure magic.
Oh, and we’ll totally geek out and chant at A as 432hz to be in harmony with the universe. In fact, we’ll practice to a beautiful soundtrack that was recorded using this tuning for the purpose of creating a feeling of ease and flow. I’ve been listening to it as I write this and I can feel a difference. Come to practice and experiment for yourself to see if you feel it too.
“If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.” -Confucius
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
If you want to geek out on the power of sound waves, check out this video to see the beautiful things that sound waves do at different frequencies.