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What is the Meaning of Namaste

Many of us first heard Namaste spoken by a yoga teacher and then responded to in kind and in unison by students at the end of yoga class. Like me, it may have taken you a while to develop an understanding of the meaning and purpose of this exchange. Perhaps you still wonder what you are saying and why? In this first "Elements of Yoga" column, we'll explore the meaning of the expression Namaste, as it is used in yoga classes. We intend to use this column to help demystify common terminology and rituals associated with yoga, in order to impart knowledge and wisdom that we hope will help you to deepen your practice.
A simple Google search will reveal that the Sanskrit term Namaste can be broken down as follows:
nama: bow
as: I
te: you
With the literal translation: I bow to you. Yet there is a greater and deeper spiritual meaning to Namaste, which is: the divine in me honors the divine in you.
Namaste is often expressed at the conclusion of yoga class in conjunction with Namaskar or Anjali mudra, which translates to salutation seal and is commonly referred to as prayer pose. It is a gesture of gratitude and recognition of self-worth, potential and divinity in both oneself and in the person or persons to whom one salutes. In the words of T. Krishnamacharya "This gesture signifies the potential for an intention to progress to greatest spiritual awakening. When done properly the palms are not flat against each other; the knuckles at the base of the fingers are bent a little, creating space between the palms and fingers of the two hands resembling a flower yet to open, symbolizing the opening of our hearts."
So, at the end of your next yoga class, when you hear your teacher say "Namaste", you can confidently and appropriately respond by:
  1. Bringing your palms together at your heart center in Anjali mudra,
  2. Closing your eyes,
  3. Bowing your head, and
  4. Saying "Namaste".
In doing so, you will understand this salutation to symbolize gratitude, respect, and a shared spiritual connection that promotes a sense of oneness. When done with understanding and sincerity, this simple paired expression and gesture expand your ability to carry the peaceful power that is cultivated through your yoga practice with you off of the mat and into life.

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