You may have heard Namaste spoken at your local yoga studio or between two individuals. But what does this phrase mean? And why do we use it in yoga?

The Origins of Namaste

Namaste is a traditional greeting used in India and is often spoken with a corresponding gesture. This gesture is performed with the hands pressed together against the chest, palms facing one another, the head slightly bowed. In fact, it is common for many to carry out this motion silently, as Namaste is implied in the gesture’s movements.

The word Namaste is a combination of two Sanskrit terms: namah (I bow respectfully to you) and aste (let there be). However, the literal translation is not nearly as important as the spirit of the greeting – a motion that is deferential, cordial and executed with grace and a certain humility. In India, Namaste may also be used in cross-cultural academic and business settings, although generally, the Western handshake has replaced this tradition.

The Meaning Of Namaste

In India, many regard Namaste as a colloquial salutation, a simple way to say hello and offer well wishes. It requires no touching and can be used between individuals of various social status, ages, and backgrounds.

But Namaste also has deep spiritual connotations. The use of Namaste may indicate belief between one or both parties in the “divine spark” that exists in all life – essentially one spirit recognizing another. Many that believe this divine spark rests in the Heart Chakra, the spiritual center of human compassion.

Namaste In Yoga

Cultural practices change as they are borrowed and adapted. Such is the case for Namaste and its prevalence in Western yoga. Attend yoga, and you’ll find it is common to say Namaste at the end or even the beginning of your yoga session. As in India, this is partly to express reverence, to honor the respectful bond that forms between student and teacher.

But it also pays homage to Namaste’s spiritual significance. To say Namaste is to recognize and honor that divine spark that resides deep within all of us. In the context of modern yoga, Namaste has come to mean, “The divine in me honors the divine in you.”

Like any powerful word, Namaste carries an importance that extends beyond its literal definition. Saying Namaste mindfully and with heartfelt intention can imbue your yoga practice with deeper meaning. Try it out next time!