If you have ever attended a yoga class, you might have noticed that the teacher has bowed to you and said Namaste, either as a greeting at the beginning of the class, as a farewell at the end of the class, or both.
In fact, yoga is full of this Namaste word, you can find it in follow-along videos, in forums, in social media posts…you can even find yoga clothing with Namaste written on it!
So…what does it mean? What does “Namaste” really mean? Is there a spiritual meaning? Why is it used in yoga so much? And how do you even respond to someone saying Namaste?
Not to worry, we can answer all of these questions and more. We will talk about what Namaste means, as well as the spiritual side of it, and why it is used in yoga. Plus, we will tell you the best way to respond! Let’s get right into it!
What Does Namaste Mean?
Namaste, which is pronounced /ˈnʌməsteɪ/, is a customary Hindu form of respectful greeting, meant to honor the person it is being spoken to. It is sometimes spoken as Namaskar instead and can be used any time of day.
Nowadays, it is most popularly used in Nepal and India, as well as other places in Southeast Asia. It is used as an everyday greeting, especially from younger people to their elders, and is a casual form of respect and good manners.
As a general rule, Namaste is spoken along with a slight bow, with the hands pressed together (palms touching), fingers pointing upwards. The gesture itself is called añjali mudrā.
The direct translation, and literal meaning of Namaste, is “the divine in me bows to the divine in you”, which is a really beautiful way of referring to the person it is being spoken to, showing great respect and affection.
Although yoga has adopted the Namaste greeting and has given it an almost spiritual significance, in places where it is commonly used it is nothing more than a respectful and good-mannered greeting, used all day and on many different occasions. It is practically used as a “hello” and “goodbye”.
The Spiritual Meaning Of Namaste
When Namaste is used in yoga, and similar activities, it isn’t really a casual greeting or a word to be used lightly. It has a lot more weight to it, and a strong significance has been created around its use, which has turned it into something rather spiritual.
But what exactly is the spiritual meaning of Namaste?
It can be complicated to explain, but put simply, Namaste is said and used in a spiritual way that passes on positive energy and vibes, from one person to another, in a never-ending loop of happiness. Essentially, when one person greets another with “Namaste”, they are saying that they are paying respect to their soul, and spiritual emotion connects them both.
Namaste is said to create vibrations of positive energy, helping center the Heart Chakras and exchanging divine power. This connects people on a deeper level, and it harmonizes the energies of everyone present.
It also enhances positivity, happiness, and mindful caring, in order to impart spiritual and emotional healing that can then transmit onto the wellbeing of the body. And as yoga is all about balance, harmony, and peace, it seems quite fitting to go the extra mile and pair it with a spiritual saying, motto, or practice.
Why Do We Say Namaste In Yoga?
If you go to a yoga class in India, you will not hear them saying Namaste. On the other hand, they will be saying Namaste to each other in everyday life, because to them, it is a greeting of respect to be used out of good manners.
In the Western world, Namaste has been so adopted by yoga practices, that it has become an intrinsic part of the yoga culture. But why is this? Why do we say Namaste in yoga?
Well, yoga nowadays has become more than physical activity, and it combines a great deal of mindfulness and spirituality to create not only the well-being of the body but of the mind and soul.
So Namaste is used as a gesture and almost ritual, in order to send out a message of peace and positivity to the universe, so that you may receive that energy back in your daily life. It is also a way to open yourself to the universe around you and connect with others in the same yoga lesson, for a more meaningful connection that spreads peace and joy.
When you say it to the teacher, it is as a way to thank them and as a way to show your relief or transformation at the end of the session, so as to make a point of having an open mind and heart to the world around you, to find better balance within yourself.
To some, the modern take on Namaste within yoga is to understand it as a form of expressing that we are all equal. We all have our own journey and path, but we share in the experience and challenges that come with it, and by saying Namaste, we share as a group and support one another through collective energies and positivity.
How To Respond When Someone Says Namaste
If you’re new to yoga, and you still don’t quite have a hang on Namaste and the practice of saying it or responding to it, you might find yourself freezing, unsure of what to do when someone says it to you.
As a general rule, the correct response to someone saying Namaste to you, is to say Namaste back with the same respect and intention of positivity, so that you are essentially giving back what they give to you, to turn it into a full circle.
So if someone says Namaste, turn to them and say it back. While you do so, it is preferable that you complete it with the gesture. So put your hands together, palms touching, fingers facing to the sky, and slightly bow your head.