Namaste: What it Really Means
Namaste is a customary salutation in India.
Hindus use it to say hello or goodbye, to initiate or close conversation, and with both friends and strangers.
Yogis are familiar with the gesture of Namaste: arms bent at the elbows, palms pressed together at the heart, head bowed forward slightly.
It isn’t uncommon to close a yoga class with the gesture and the spoken word.
In India, it is understood the gesture itself means Namaste, and so it is unnecessary to say the word.
But what does Namaste mean?
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The Divine Spark
In the Vedas, Namaste is among the five forms of traditional greeting.
It refers to paying homage or showing respect.
In Sanskrit, Namaste is literally nama (bow) + as (I) + te (you), or I bow to you.
The word namaha can also be translated as “na ma” (not mine).
In a spiritual context, this suggests negating one’s ego in the presence of another.
Another translation is “May our minds meet,” as is demonstrated by the bowing of the head and the palms folded at the chest.
Hindus believe the Divine spark, or soul, is housed in the heart chakra.
The gesture is quite literally an acknowledgment of one soul by the soul of another.
A spiritual translation is “The light and me honors the light in you”.
This translation recognizes that God (or Spirit, or life force, or Creative Source) is the same in all.
There is no separation between divinity, you, and me.
We honor the oneness by bringing the palms together, and by bowing the head we honor Spirit with reverence and humility.
When done with sincerity in the heart and the mind surrendered, it can signify a deep union between two or more people.
Namaste is also a gesture of meditation.
Since the hands are placed at the heart chakra, it brings us deeper into that space.
The head is bowed to the heart, surrendering itself to the Divine that lies there.
Namaste can be done alone during meditation to allow a deeper connection to the heart, or in the presence of another as a brief but profound homage to the heart space and the soul that lives there.
Namaste can be done at the beginning and at the end of class.
It is more often done at the end of class, since the group energy has been unified and made peaceful.
The teacher traditionally initiates Namaste as a gesture of gratitude and respect to her students, and also to the lineage of her own teachers.
By doing Namaste in return, the students connect with their individual pathways and are united with their teacher and fellow students on this journey in this lifetime.
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