Months ago, a friend living in Beijing complained about yoga teachers using Sanskrit and not explaining the meaning. She was especially annoyed by closing class with “namaste,” when many didn’t know what it meant. I believe my friend and colleague Ben also takes issue with this. I’m guilty of it, I admit, largely because I do not chant in my Columbia classes, and it’s nice to have a touch of the spiritual tradition. I don’t explain simply because by the end of the class, there is less than no more time.
I always intend to explain, because I get the impression some students think it means, “thank you.” And because my friend is right, it should be explained. Namaste literally means “I bow to you.” It is the act of acknowledging the soul of another. This is also described as bowing to the divine, the light, the spirit, the humanity, in another. Some teachers also say, “The light in me bows to the light in you.” Namaste is traditionally said with the hands together in front of the heart, with the head bowed, or with the hands at the third eye, and drawn down to the heart. The posture itself literally means “Namaste,” and because the meaning is inherent in the action, it doesn’t need to be said. A final note: It is not by chance that the hands are pressed together in front of the heart.
p.s. In response, Jessica sent the above video.
4 thoughts on “Namaste नमस्ते”
Pastor Eddie D. Smith Sr. – The Meaning of ‘Namaste’
was going to post a cynical take on how it’s just used as a reflexive/groveling salutation devoid of reverence in india, but that video is so disarming
you know i also originally thought it meant something along the lines of, “thank you” or “peace be with you” (because clearly you would say words from a catholic mass after a yoga class!).
wish i could watch the vid but alas the ch government does not wish it so. i’ll have to track down a friend with a vpn.
thanks, all. Amy, I have this from your original message:
“Yea, it does bother me a bit that we always say it but there’s never any explanation about it. Even when I did an ‘introductory workshop,’ they had packets of info about different poses, etc., but nothing about ‘namaste’. Or ‘om’ for that matter. Although my chanting ‘om’ may be just as disingenuous given my limited knowledge about it, it’s easier for me to appreciate it’s use in class because it is a physical experience – creating the sound myself and connecting it with others in the room has a very calming and centering effect for me.”
This is a good example of yoga pet peeves. Some (K & others) find namaste annoying, you found it annoying, but didn’t find OM annoying, etc. We all, well, most, have things that irritate us and it can be a bit arbitrary. Doesn’t make us smart or right or superior, as our ego would like. It’s just one more thing to watch.