Ashtanga Quotes,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

What Does That Om Symbol on Your Shirt Really Mean?

I meet a lot of awesome people in the blogosphere. During a conversation on the state of consciousness we call “deep sleep”, Lucia Coghi offered amazing words on the meaning of the “om” symbol which I have summarized below.


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AUM  consists of three curves, one semicircle, and a dot. The lower curve symbolizes the waking state.  The consciousness is turned outwards through the gates of the senses. It’s larger size signifies that this is the most common state of human consciousness.

The upper curve denotes the state of deep sleep or the unconscious state. This is to state where the sleeper desires nothing nor beholds any dream.

The middle curve signifies the dream state. The consciousness of the individual is turned inwards, and the dreaming self beholds an enthralling view of the world behind the lids of the eyes.

The dot signifies the fourth state of  (absolute) consciousness.   It signifies the coming to rest of all differentiated, relative existence.  This utterly quiet, peaceful and and blissful state is the ultimate aim of all spiritual activity. This Absolute (non-relative) state of consciousness,  illuminates the other three states.

Finally, the semi circle symbolizes maya ( illusion) and separates the dot from the other three curves. Thus it is the illusion of maya that prevents us from the realization of this highest state of bliss. The semi circle is open at the top, and does not touch the dot. In this manner, the form of OM represents both ,the unmanifest and the manifest.


This is what I love so much at Yoga. Right in front of your face, every day, we have this wealth of knowledge about our bodies, existence, human nature and spirit.  Sharath often talks about yoga being like the ocean.

You can sail around  and around on the ocean for years. But it’s only when you dive in that you know the beauty of the sea- Sharath Jois

Who is willing to dive in and get this knowledge? A word that we say every day at the end of class and graces T-shirts, bumper stickers and yoga studio walls all over the world, but how many stop and think about its meaning?

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail

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