Susan Laskoff

The light within me bows to the light within you.

In the United States, the word Namaste is commonly associated with yoga, mindful living, and spiritualism.   Perhaps your yoga instructors say Namaste at the beginning or end of a class, palms pressed together in Anjali Mudra at the heart, or palms pressed together at the third eye in the middle of the forehead.  Often students will respond in kind.  Did you ever wonder what the word Namaste really means and where it comes from?

Namaste is derived from Sanskrit.  A common translation is, “The light within me bows to the light within you.”  In India, Namaste is both a spoken word and a hand gesture that people use as a greeting, to say goodbye, and to give thanks.  However, the meaning is much deeper and, for some, sacred.  It is a heartfelt acknowledgement of the other person, an honest moment of connection between people, and a way to express friendship, love, and respect with humility.

To perform the gesture Namaste, place your hands together at the heart chakra, center of the sternum, close your eyes and bow your head.  Although in the West we often perform the hand gesture and say Namaste simultaneously, in India the hand gesture alone signifies Namaste.  Some even do the gesture Namaste to oneself as way to go deeper inward during meditation.

Many yoga instructors end class with both the spoken word Namaste and the hand gesture as a symbol of gratitude.  The feelings of gratitude are manifold, personal, and individual.  For the instructor, it is a way to show respect for the students, and also a way to pay homage to all the teachers who came before.  For the students, Namaste can be an expression of gratitude for all the gifts of yoga and for the instruction.  It is also a quiet moment to internally acknowledge one’s own thoughts and feelings of gratitude.  From my heart to yours, Namaste.


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