You repeat it at the end of every yoga class, but what does namaste mean? The answer is more complicated than you might expect, and understanding its true meaning can open your life and yoga up to a more spiritual existence. Here’s a breakdown about what the word namaste means.
What does namaste mean?
Namaste (pronounced NAH-muh-stay) is an ancient Sanskrit word that doesn’t directly translate to a simple word or phrase, especially since there is a deeper spiritual meaning that words can’t quite do justice to.
According to Merriam-Webster, a simplified version of the definition of namaste goes like this: “The Sanskrit phrase namaste is formed from namaḥ, meaning “bow, obeisance, adoration,” and the enclitic pronoun te, meaning “to you.” The noun namaḥ, in turn, is a derivative of the verb namati, which means “(she or he) bends, bows.”’
Simply put, namaste means “I bow to you.” But it’s more than just a literal bow. It’s also been translated as things like:
- I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
- My soul recognizes your soul.
- I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
- I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
- We are the same; we are one.
- When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.
With all these different translations, you can see that namaste is more than just a simple greeting. It has an intention behind it. The word namaste incorporates an aspect of creating a spiritual ring of connection with another being.
How do you perform a namaste greeting?
While “namaste” is commonly used as a greeting in India, it’s not intended to be thrown around in the same manner that one would say something like, “Hey, what’s up?” While saying namaste, you should gently press your hands together in front of your chest or forehead in a prayer position, close your eyes, and bow slightly. Placing your hands in front of your heart or “third eye” chakra adds intention, meaning, and energy to the word.
Things to remember when you namaste
Since namaste is more than just a word, you should keep in mind the spiritual connection behind the word when you say it.
Many people believe that the heart chakras connect while saying namaste to each other. Vibrations are sent from the person saying the word to the person receiving it. By tossing the word around without a thought, you are denying a person the opportunity to properly receive your heart vibrations, so it’s important to remain mindful in your greeting.
Namaste should only be said with positive intentions behind it – you want to be sure not to cloud it with negativity. It’s also best not to touch the other person while saying it, since that may transfer negativity.
You should also be mindful of your hand placement. Your palms and fingertips should just be grazing each other; you aren’t trying to press paper between your hands. Also, you should try to make sure your hands are placed directly over your heart or forehead to connect more deeply with your chakras.
Namaste in yoga
While namaste is used as a common greeting in India, in the western hemisphere it is most commonly heard at the end of a yoga class. There are a couple of reasons namaste is said in this context.
On one level, it’s a way to thank the teacher and other students for time spent together for a deeper purpose. On another level, saying namaste can remind you to focus on gratitude and the bigger picture in life instead of getting bogged down in details. Think of saying namaste as like sending a message of peace out into the universe.
Namaste vs. namaskar
Sometimes, you may hear the word “namaskar” in place of the word “namaste.” Again, since Sanskrit doesn’t translate well directly into English, it can be difficult to parse out the difference between the two words. However, “namaskar” is usually used to address more than one person or somebody who commands a lot of respect, while “namaste” is used with one person you are on more familiar terms with.
How can you apply the principles of namaste to your daily life?
Namaste is about mindfulness and peace. When you are feeling stressed in your daily life, the principle of namaste can remind you to find your inner peace and let go of details that are stressing you out.