Let's talk about 'Om'
The sound "Om", is often chanted in yoga practice because it is recognised as the sound of the vibration of the universe. However, rather than being phonetically pronounced, it has a 'rounder sound 'ah-oh-um'. Chanting mantra or using sound allows us to extend our exhale, which deepens our state of relaxation. (Check out my blog post on chanting if it appeals and the one on the parasympathetic nervous system for some geeky anatomy, if that interests you.)
I like to begin my yoga classes with the pranayama of full yogic breath. We breathe into and out of the belly to notice the movement, expanding it like a balloon, then to the ribs, allowing them to move out to the sides laterally and lastly to the chest, noticing the space below our collar bones rising upwards towards the chin. Once you have experienced the breath in all three parts of the chest separately, you can inhale to all three parts with the same breath and exhale from all three parts in turn.
A fun litle exercise for you
You can do this at home alone if you're worried about feeling daft (try to let that go, you'll have more fun!)
Take a deep inhale to the belly and exhale. Notice how long the exhale lasts. Take another deep breath and this time as you exhale, make the sound 'aaahhhh'. Drop your jaw, make your mouth big. Did you notice if you could make the exhale last for longer using the sound? Next, inhale to the sides of the ribs and as you exhale make the sound 'oh' (as in oasis not ooh la la), creating a circle shape with the mouth. On exhaling from the top of the chest, try the sound 'ummm' with the mouth closed and the sound coming out of the nose. Put all three sounds together "aaah-ohhh-ummm".
And there you have it, a beautiful mantra to send out to the universe for all to hear.