Namaste, this word is said all the time in yoga classes. Namaste, what does it mean? It is rarely understood even by those practising yoga.
Namaste is an ancient Sanskrit greeting that is still used every day in India and particularly in the Nepal Himalaya. Given a rough translation, it means “I bow to the God within you”, or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you” – which confirms a knowing that we are all created from the same One Divine Consciousness.
Namasté is more than a word that is used to end a yoga session. With respect and reverence, Namasté is a way to see and honour the other person’s reality.
Namasté (nah-mah-stay). You hear this word at the end of every yoga class, but do you know what it means?
As in so many traditions in yoga, an opportunity exists to dig deeper into the intention and meaning behind what you say, what you do, and how you move through this world. This is because if you’re truly living ‘yoga,’ you are more focused on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your asana poses than on the outward form.
When you bow your head and say namasté at the end of a yoga session, you have the opportunity at that point to do more than simply mark the ending of the session. In fact, a spiritual revelation is on the other side of a truly felt namasté and so, in the spirit of taking our learning to the next level, let us take a look at the deeper meaning of this often heard, but a commonly over-simplified piece of yogic wisdom.
The definition of Namasté
If there was one word to use to capture all of the spiritual traditions of yoga, it could be namasté. This is a Sanskrit word that brings about the essence of oneness and an understanding of the true nature of reality.
At the simple level, namasté can be described to be a salutation of respect and reverence. It is a traditional Indian greeting, and it literally translates to ‘I bow to you’ (namah or namas, meaning bow, te meaning you).
In India, the gesture of the prayer position of the hands not only accompanies the word namaste, but it is synonymous with its meaning. Family members greeting one another, children acknowledging and respecting their elders, people passing each other on the street, strangers meeting for the first time, and students in school greeting their teachers all join their palms together and bow their heads in respect of one another.
How to Perform the Namasté Greeting
In the west yoga teachers have adopted the custom of ending their yoga classes with a bow of namasté. If you approach this by looking at it from the surface level, it is a way for the teacher and students to thank each other for time well-spent, and to close the sacred container of the yoga practice. The palms and all ten fingers touch one another, with the thumbs joining in front of the heart space or brow. Usually, the teacher say’s ‘namaste’ with a bow first, and the students then repeat it back.
Here is a list of Translations
As mentioned earlier in this post, one of the most common translations of namasté is “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.” But a simple search across the internet reveals that there are a variety of beautiful meanings and translations of namasté, and these include:
- The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you
- I honour the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
- I honour the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
- When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.
- I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
- My soul recognizes your soul.
- We are the same, we are one.
You see others in a more spiritual sense
When you say namasté and you mean it, you are simply declaring or confirming that you see others for what you actually are. You are declaring an affirmation of the choice to identify with God-consciousness, rather than with the ego. This is because the ego would have you believe that you are somehow superior or inferior to any other being.
The person who declares the greeting ‘namaste’ is also making an active choice to take the spiritual lessons derived from yoga practice or mediation and take it into the school of life experiences. What would life be like if you saw others as perfectly whole? What if you saw yourself this way? When two yogis share a namasté greeting, it is similar to making a pact to honour the highest, truest, most authentic parts of themselves, and to let their limitations fall away.
The spiritual teaching associated with namaste
It is always useful to find a specific phrase that captures spiritual teaching. But in this instance, there is so much more to namasté than what can simply be written on the side of a coffee mug.
Namasté represents the idea that we all are one. Namasté affirms that beneath the outer appearance that makes us seem different from each other, actually we are all made of the same stuff. We are more the same than we are different.
Tantrik philosophy teaches that everything that exists is one Divine consciousness that longs to experience itself in different forms. It is in the nature of a human being to forget this truth—that every person, thought, feeling, and experience is a perfect expression of the one Divine awareness.
When a person does forget this truth (by feeling separate, less than, better than, or identifying with any external aspect of being more so than its true nature), the person suffers. The teachings are a reminder that your spiritual aspect of yoga practice is the art and act of simply remembering who you are.
If this post has been helpful and you have more understanding of the deeper meaning of namaste, why not find a particular meaning of this salutation that speaks to your own heart? Then you can go on to plant that meaning as a seed into your centre so that every time you place your palms together, you will nourish that seed and savour its peace.
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