Just came across a post on Flying yogini's blog about chanting OM, surprised to find myself commenting on it and at length. The question was concerning our experience of AUM/OM and how we'd teach it.
I NEVER, not in a million years thought I'd end up chanting, too hippyish, too much of a new age cliche, complete lack of cultural reference..... I also refuse to sing (damn, here goes the cultural reference argument) if I'm forced to go to church (weddings, funerals etc) and even got fired once as a chef for refusing to come out and sing Happy Birthday to a guest, with the rest of the staff.
Curious thing though, while getting into Vinyasa Krama yoga I heard some mp3's of Ramaswami chanting. I downloaded them and would listened while cycling to work. Within a couple of days I'd catch myself humming the tunes throughout the day, by the end of the week I'd find myself chanting little snatches of them. I ended up learning the pranayama mantra and have chanted it in my head during pranayama ever since and sometimes, if stressed, I'll chant it secretly out loud, I find it curiously calming. I'll also chant the ganeseha and patanjali prayers out loud if I'm a little down, makes me smile every time, cheers me up no end, why is that?
On the Vinyasa Krama TT course this summer, I found myself, in a class, chanting a couple of hours a day ( needed a reality check on that one), we ended up chanting all of the Yoga Sutras together. I still felt a little awkward when we would do a line of a chant each but I think I secretly enjoyed it. Now I chant regularly at home and even did the 1008 gayatri's this year. If I were ever to teach a VK class I hope I'd have the nerve to start and finish my lesson with a chant just as Ramaswami would do with us.
Despite all that, I'm still a little uncomfortable with my OM. It was OK on the course when in the middle of the group and my OM can get lost in amongst everybody else. Still something about the OM on it's own, just feels.... awkward, kind of inauthentic when I do it, strangely a short mantra like, say, 'OM hrim nama shivaya' is fine, go figure. Oh and how do you make your OM longer, some people on the course kept it going for ages, always thought that would be good for playing long notes on my Sax, any tips?
Oh and If I were to teach it or use it in a class ( and I'd feel obliged to, because Ramaswami always finished his classes with three) then I would probably just get everyone humming MMMM together a couple of times and then add the O/AU kind of ease into it so it doesn't seem so awkward, sneak it up on them.
Here's my favourite prayers to chant and Ramaswami teaching them, The Ganesha prayer and the Patanjali prayer, part of which will sound familiar to the Ashtangi's. Ramaswami would tend to chant them together.
UPDATE: Thanks to Anon for an interesting Link, in a comment on this post, to do with ' the right note for AUM' and Brain science.