You may have heard Om at the beginning of a yoga class or seen the graceful calligraphy that represents the concept tattooed on someone's skin, but do you really know what it represents? If not, that's okay, because the idea(s) behind Om are difficult to pin down. This symbol represents a vast number of things, including but not limited to the sound of the universe, the human soul, the past and present, and all things to come. Basically, it's the entire cosmos in a nutshell.
Om is one of the most important symbols and concepts throughout several religions. It grew out of Hinduism but has extended into Buddhism and Jainism as well. The earliest known reference to Om comes from the Upanishads, an ancient collection of Sanskrit texts, in which the insignia takes on a number of complex meanings, like the Brahman, Atman, and complete self-knowledge, among many others. Today, the sound of Om is frequently used to begin and end mantras that are used to open up people's chakras, and because of this, it is also thought of as a tool for meditation as well as a vehicle for enlightenment.
In the realm of tattoos, Oms come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Tattooists put their own spins on the symbol, toying with it's dimensions or embedding it in other religious imagery. Some position it at the centers of lotuses to represent the blooming of consciousness, while others pair it with religious figures like Buddha to highlight its spiritual significance.
To see more sacred body art, visit all of these tattooists' Instagrams. Should you want the sound of the universe on your skin, have one of them design an Om for you. Namaste, everyone.