There is one very familiar saying you are most likely to come across at the end of each yoga class – Namaste. But what does it mean? Where did it originate? Why is it so commonly used in the meditation and yoga community as a greeting and a goodbye? Are we using Namaste correctly as intended?
Origins of the Word Namaste
The expression Namaste is a Sanskrit word that holds many meanings. The literal translation is "I bow to you," with nama, meaning "bow," and te, meaning "to you." However, if you ask any yoga teacher, they'll quickly correct you on the meaning of Namaste that differs from the literal translation.
The actual meaning of Namaste is "I bow to the divine in you." How come? The word Namaste is deeply rooted in the Hindu and Indian culture, impacting the final meaning behind this famous expression. There is a belief with Hindu roots that says that "God resides in everyone." Therefore, any person you're greeting with Namaste deserves a bow to the divine. Namaste is a way of showing respect and honor to another person and the divine within them. When you say Namaste to someone, you recognize the sacredness in them. You acknowledge that they are not just a physical body but a being of light and love.
There are other interpretations of Namaste that you might find more suitable such as:
- I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
- My soul recognizes your soul.
- We are the same.
- We are one.
- My spirit bows to your spirit.
- I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
How to pronounce Namaste the right way
The word "Namaste" sounds like "Nah Mah Stay" while putting the put the emphasis on the last syllable. Pronounce with a slight bow and with the hands pressed together in front of the heart. The gesture of Namaste is often accompanied by a soft smile, a sign of respect and love. When you say Namaste, you recognize the divine within the other person and show them that you appreciate them for who they are. The Namaste gesture is a reminder of the peace and unity that exists in the world.
Namaste Gesture: Anjali Mudra
The Namaste hand gesture, or Anjali mudra, is made by bringing the palms of the hands together in front of the heart and bowing your head slightly. The hands are in a prayer position, with the fingertips touching and the thumbs resting near the heart.
The hands in front of the heart chakra represent the meeting of the individual's energy and the universal energy that surrounds us all and creates a spiritual connection. The Namaste means the way of showing respect and honor to another person and the divine within them.
Where and when should you use Namaste?
Recently, there has been a spark in debates around the appropriateness of using Namaste in yoga classes or as a general greeting in the Western world. In the South Asian region, particularly in India and Nepal, Namaste is a greeting used to address those with deep respect, authority, older people, teachers, gurus, or other honorable people.
Once Namaste became popular in Western countries, people started using it more and more as a greeting after or before a yoga class. However, it's essential to remember Namaste's origin and history and protect it from being overused.
Treat Namaste with respect as you'd treat the person you're greeting with this divine expression.
Namaste in a yoga practice
Namaste is often used in yoga practice to begin and end a yoga class. It reminds us that we are all connected and should treat each other respectfully. Namaste can also be used as a form of meditation, focusing on the breath and the sacredness of the present moment. Often the yoga teacher will say, "Namaste, my friends," to the students at the end of practice and hold a little pause with their hands pressed in Anjali Mudra. This reminds us that we are all connected and should treat each other with kindness and love.
Surya Namaskar, or sun salutation, is a standard series of postures used in many yoga types. It is a practice of honoring the sun, considered the source of all life. Surya means "sun," and Namaskar means "bow." So, when you do the Surya Namaskar, you bow to the sun to honor its life-giving energy. Many asanas included pressing hands together in front of the heart chakra in the Namaste position.
The benefits of living your life with Namaste
When you live your life with the Namaste mindset, you are constantly reminded of the interconnectedness of all things. This reminder fosters a sense of peace and unity within yourself and those around you. Namaste encourages treating others with respect and compassion and helps you see the divine in everyone. When you live the Namaste way, you are more likely to experience happiness and contentment, and you find it easier to deal with the challenges that come your way.
Quotes about Namaste to inspire you
The practice of Namaste can bring about a sense of profound peace and unity. Here are a few quotes about Namaste that will inspire you to live your life with reverence and respect:
"The highest form of respect is when you bow to the divine in someone." – Rumi.
"In the practice of Namaste, we acknowledge the light within others and ourselves. We honor the sacredness of all life." – Lisa Englehardt.
"Namaste is not just a word. It is an attitude, an understanding, and a way of life." – Amit Ray.
"When you practice Namaste, you connect with the divine within yourself and others. It is a gesture of love, respect, and unity." – Deepak Chopra.
"Namaste is the light in me recognizing the light in you." – Unknown.
"Namaste is the recognition of the divine light that exists in all things." –Unknown.
"When you say Namaste, you are acknowledging the God within yourself and the other person." –Unknown.
"In every soul, there is a light, and when we see that light in others, it is called Namaste." –Unknown.
"When you say Namaste, you are acknowledging the sacredness of all life." –Unknown.
Daily Namaste practice (where appropriate or privately) can help you experience a sense of profound peace and unity. As you honor the divine in yourself and others, you will find your life becoming more joyful and content. Namaste is a way of living based on love, respect, and compassion. It reminds us that we are all connected and have the same potential for greatness. Living with Namaste will make you happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.
Frequently Asked Questions about Namaste
Is it OK to say Namaste?
Yes, it is perfectly OK to say Namaste. Many people find it a meaningful and beautiful word as long as you respect the roots behind this sacred expression and use it where appropriate. You might hold off using Namaste in South East Asian countries since it's a salutation reserved for elders, teachers, gurus, and other honorable personas.
Why do yoga instructors say Namaste?
Yoga instructors often say Namaste at the end of a yoga class to thank their students for coming. It is also a gesture of respect and deep appreciation. A teacher must avoid using Namaste without intention or signaling that the class is over and yogis are OK to leave the room.
Is Namaskar same as Namaste?
Namaskar and Namaste are both Hindu terms that mean respect. Although used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. While Namaskar is a more formal way of showing respect, Namaste is a more informal expression.
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