The Practice of Om

In 1979, I was living in Barcelona, Spain. One day I was invited to a hospital as somebody there had a brainwave to teach a simple yoga technique to people coming for operations, as a pre-operation preparation. Generally, when people come for surgeries, for operations, they are very nervous because they think, ‘We are going to be given anaesthesia, our body is going to be cut, we are not sure whether the operation will be successful’. All those different kinds of fears are there and how they are going to survive, and it is a terrible condition. I am sure even in your hospital similar conditions exist; people are very nervous, seeking assurances from the doctors all the time.

When this doctor called me, he said, “Swamiji, we want to do some research on a very simple technique of yoga which people can do in five minutes, which will lower their mental resistance, make them stronger, optimistic and positive when they are to undergo surgery. What do you suggest?” I said, “Let us get ten people, any person who has no background of yoga, and monitor them with different biofeedback instruments like the GSR, the EEG and the ECG, while for five minutes they chant the mantra Om with their breath.”

That was no problem; I was probably the only person in the hospital with a yogic background. They were all Christians and they were practising this mantra Om, and we were watching the graphs in the other room. The graphs showed their brainwaves and which brainwave pattern was more active. When the patients first came into the room, they were very nervous. Not only for the reason that they were going to do something new and unknown to them, but due to the underlying anxiety, ‘We have to undergo this surgery and we are unsure if we are going to survive or not’. You could imagine the state of their beta brainwaves.

In five minutes of this Om chanting, delta became pre-dominant. Their facial expression changed and they came out of the room with a more positive state of brain; I don’t know about their minds, but definitely in a more positive state of brain: more relaxed, more tranquil. And believe it or not, since then, whenever people are admitted for surgery, for major or minor operations, they are still practising five minutes of Om chanting at that hospital. It has become a routine pre-operation care for the patients.

1979, Barcelona, Spain