Have you ever been in a yoga class and wondered why the teacher says “namaste” at the end? What does it really mean, and why do we do it?
Namaste is a contact free form of greeting. It is respectful, and used universally when meeting, or leaving, another person regardless of gender, age, or social status. It is a gesture of good will and gratitude. It recognises that we are all souls living from our heart centre, and brings equality to all meetings and gatherings.
It is traditional to bring our palms together in prayer at the heart centre, and bow our head as we close our eyes and say “namaste”.
Nama means “I bow”, and te means “you”. So a literal translation of the word means “I bow to you”. The hands are at the level of our heart chakra. The energy centre which is home to our divine spark. So we are saying to one another “the divine light in me bows to the divine light in you”.
Sometimes we have our hands in prayer at the level of our third eye. This is a deep offering of respect, and is often used during worship.
In the west we tend to practice the whole gesture as one (bowed head, hands in prayer, and the word). In India it is understood that the hand gesture itself signifies Namaste.
When I end a yoga class I always wish a full namaste gesture. It is traditional. But it is also meaningful. Every class has different people from different backgrounds who have come to practice for their own reasons. We all have yoga in common and I am blessed that they have come to practice in my class. From my heart, I do truly bow to them, and honour them, for coming to practice. Yoga has transformed my life. Having experienced this I have some understanding of the journey some people are on too. I offer them my respect, support, and acknowledgement.
For me, offering a namaste here and there has become more every day in my life too. If I see someone doing something amazing, or challenging, “namaste”. When I am confronted with someone who is being aggressive, or challenging, as I walk away I silently perform the gesture.
We are all trying our best. We are all the same. We all deserve each others respect.