When you're new to the study of yoga, Namaste is one of those terms that might cause confusion. Typically, you'll hear your instructor and classmates use this phrase several times. But, its meaning is seldom clearly defined for the novice yoga student.
The Meaning of Namaste
Namaste is a Hindi word that is used in India as a salutation, much in the same way "hello" or "goodbye" is used in America. It is used by people of all ages, races, and genders to communicate with friends, family, and strangers. "Nam-a-stay" is the correct pronunciation.
In yoga, Namaste is often used as an expression of respect and goodwill. However, the phrase can be hard to translate in a more literal sense.
Here are some of the possible meanings experts have associated with the expression:
- "A reverential salutation to you."
- "I bow to you."
- "The spirit in me meets the spirit in you."
- "I honor the place in you which is of love, truth, light, and peace."
- "I salute the light of God in you."
- "I behold God within you."
- "I greet that place where you and I are one."
- "I bow to the divine in you."
- "I recognize that within each of us is a place where divinity dwells, and when we are in that place, we are one."
- "I recognize that we are all equal."
- "The entire universe resides within you."
No matter which meaning you choose to associate with the term, Namaste should be thought of as a divine blessing. It honors sacredness and equality.
The Namaste gesture is designed to signify the belief that we all have a divine spark in the heart chakra. The gesture acknowledges the soul in one by the soul in another. In yoga, the Namaste gesture is performed at both the beginning and the end of the class. The teacher uses the gesture as an expression of gratitude for his or her students.
The Namaste gesture is called Anjali Mudra in eastern religions. This common symbolic hand position uses one hand to signify the worldly self and the other to represent the spiritual nature of the world. The purpose of Anjali Mudra is to show that you are making the effort to rise above potential differences with others. Anjali Mudra, a sign of love and respect, helps you to connect to the person to whom you are bowing.
To perform the Namaste gesture, bring both hands together with your palms touching. Your hands should be at the chest, below the chin, or above your head. Close your eyes and bow your head.
In a yoga practice, the gesture is often done in conjunction with the pronunciation of the phrase. In India, however, the meaning behind the gesture is so clear that no verbal explanation is needed.
Use the Gesture with Power
Namaste is a universal extension of spiritual power. When you acknowledge others with this gesture, you make a conscious effort to connect from the heart. It doesn't matter what your faith might be, or whether or not you practice yoga. When you choose to greet other people in this way, you spread the belief that we are all sacred beings who deserve respect.