Ever heard the joke…
We take an in-depth look at the origins and deeper meaning of this word, and its impact on the yoga world.
There is no denying that this intricate word has cemented its place firmly at each and every yoga practice.
A Part of Yoga Class
No matter which type of yoga class you have attended in the past, one thing that we can all agree on, is that the word Namaste is heard at the conclusion of every class.
As you sit with bent legs, fully conscious, and ready to leave the yoga class, your teacher bids you farewell with the well-known word.
The Difference Between Namaskar and Namaste
The intent behind both words is to show a sign of respect to whom these words are uttered to.
The Indian people believe that the appropriate way to use both these greetings of respect is to hold the palms in front of the chest, in an upward motion.
On the other hand, this greeting was also Westernized and is used by uttering the word “hello”, and shaking the other person’s hand at the same time.
The origin of both of these words are deeply rooted in the Sanskrit and was developed by the culture-rich Indian people.
Most people use these words in a similar fashion, and they are also classified by various dictionaries as synonyms of one another. So generally speaking, there really is no major difference.
The word namaste suggests bowing to the person in respect and is used to salute the divine subject as a whole. Namaskar bears reference to the oneness of that individual on the inside.
What does namaste mean in yoga…
The gesture in its entirety is meant as the soul of one person to recognize the soul in the other person that they are greeting. The reason for this is that there is a belief that suggests that a spark exists in the center of the 4th Chakra which is known as the heart chakra or Anahata Chakra.
Its literal translation suggests that means “I bow to you”. In modern-day lexicon, it is a portmanteau (a word that is formed using two other words). It consists of the word ‘namas’, meaning “bow” and the word ‘te’ means you.
Accurate Performance of the Namaste Gesture
The correct manner in which to carry out this age-old motion is to place both hands in the middle of the chest where the heart is located. Press the palms together in a praying motion. Close your eyes and bow your head at the same time, whilst uttering the word.
Each action that is performed as described in the previous paragraph, has a significance behind it. The hands being placed together at the heart chakra signifies a flow of love. A bowed head and closed eyes are reflective of freeing your mind and listening to the heart.
It is a beautiful piece of meditation that allows both teacher and student to reach a place, of peace where like-minded spirits can roam free.
When Should You Practice Namaste
Ideally, Namaste is practiced twice during your routine. This refers to both the start as well as the end of your session.
Traditionally the teacher will initiate namaste to signal to their students’ feelings of respect and gratitude. The yogis and yoginis will reciprocate this in return, subsequently inviting the teacher into their hearts and space.
Namaste is most uttered after a yoga class concludes and before the students and teacher depart the venue. The students thank the teacher by reciprocating the gesture.
It’s also seen as a very polite when you seek repentance for any misconduct or harm you might have done and will be seen by the recipient thereof as your way of asking for forgiveness.
As insignificant as it might seem to others, and in some cases even hard to believe. There are actual physical benefits attached to namaste.
It is also referred to as the centering pose and goes by the name of Anjali mudra. Some of the benefits include:
- Effective as a stress reliever
- Assists with improving focus
- Helps to induce a deeper state of meditation
- Promotes overall flexibility in areas of the body such as fingers and wrists
Origins of Namaste
The word namaste is found in the Sanskrit. Sanskrit was the original language of the people of the Hindi culture in India. It is also still the language of choice amongst scholars all over the world.
In addition to serving the purpose of a courtesy gesture, Namaste is also used as one of the sixteen Upacharas. The upacharas are a series of sixteen steps of the formal Puja Worship system.
A Deep Sense of Spirituality
There is a spiritual connotation with the word Namaste. The Hindu culture believes that when you namaste or “I bow to you”, you are not just bowing to the physical entity but to the divineness within each person as well.
Delving a little deeper, we discover that this motion is also linked to the Brow Chakra. So when a namaste is performed between two people, you are reaching as far as their mind too.
It can almost be compared to sending good vibes between two different entities that are engaging.
The ancient Sanskrit literature teaches that the force of life is the same in all. We can learn a lot from these teachings, known as Vedas. By greeting one another in this way, we allow our minds to connect and nullify any egotistical clashes that might result in modern encounters.
India has a very large and diverse population. Therefore the word Namaste will be spoken differently across the regions of the country.
For the regions that speak Telugu, it is named Namaskaramulu. The regions where Tamil is spoken, it is called Vanakkam and in Malayam it is called Namaskaram.
In Bengali, it is called Nomoskhar, and in Assamese, it is called Nomoskar.
We have a few suggestions for you to incorporate namaste in your daily life:
- Greet your fellow yogis and yoginis in yoga class, by using namaste.
- When you do greet people in this manner, remember to look them in the eye. This ignites the spark of divinity in them.
- Your palms must come together, and touch at your heart.
- Apply the correct pronunciation of the word namaste. It is correctly pronounced as nuh-mUH-st-hey. The emphasis is on the second syllable.
- Practice your bow in the mirror, to check if this is done correctly.
- Forge your own special bond with namaste.
It is said that Krishna, the supreme god, and the most popular of all the divinities of Indian origins, stole clothes of young, unmarried women. He only returned their clothes once he was satisfied that they had adequately performed namaste.
Nama has a few different connotations associated with the word:
Nama also bears reference to other nations such as Germans, and Greeks. The expressions are all similar in nature.
If the word ‘nama’ is dissected into more detail, we find that it is also a portmanteau. ‘Na’ meaning to refute and the ‘ma’ represents self or mine. There are three main components to namaste, namely verbal, mental, and physical.
The mental aspect is first at play. Meaning that one first has to submit total surrender of self in a spiritual sense. This is done to a deity, referred to as bhakti.
From a physical point of view, namaste is symbolically rich and captivating in the five fingers that connect to each palm. By merging the five fingers of the right hand, with the five fingers of the left hand, we learn to act harmoniously in everything that we do.
The digits on the left hand represent the five senses of karma (know, “gnosis”, “diagnosis” “prognosis, and “cognition”). The right hand represents the five organs of knowledge (auditory brain, tactical brain, visionary brain, gustatory brain, and olfactory brain)
The number that totals as a result of the two sets of fingers is ten. Ten is seen symbolically as perfection. And it is so many different traditions. In Christianity, the number of commandments equates to ten, and in the Pythagorean astronomical system, ten is emblematic of the universe as a whole.
One of the most notable and discerning examples of namaste is in the institution of marriage. Marriage is a semi-state of completeness. It symbolizes a new beginning of the concurrence of a union between a male and a female component in the universe.
For example, after the opulent and long-lasting celebratory weekend with all the guests, the husband, and wife team carry out namaste toward one another. Namaste is almost a symbol of binding their new union but in a much deeper sense.
The male and female unity is referred to as dual elements, but that forms one entity at the end of the day. Some examples prevalent of this, that are well-known and frequently used are:
- Mind and Body
- Talent and Genius
- Pleasure and Pain
- Word and Meaning
- Hot breath and cold breath (Yoga)
- Exhalation and Inhalation (Yoga)
Namaste vs Handshake
As we find ourselves in uncertain times due to Covid19, right now is the perfect time to exercise namaste as a greeting and perhaps adopt it at the same time.
Even though a handshake is deemed as intimate due to physical touch. The hand placement of namaste acts as a knife that cuts, through any indifferences we might have as people when we first encounter one another.
A common factor that both these gestures have with each other, is that both were birthed from a human desire to demonstrate by show of hands, that the other party comes in peace, and that there is no malicious intent behind the interaction.
There are a few asanas where namaste is practiced in the physical sense:
Crescent Moon Pose (Anjaneyasana). Lunging position whereby the arms are bent overhead.
Monkey Pose (Hanumanusana). Seated position. The modern version of front splits.
Garland Pose. (Malasana). Part of a series of squatting asanas.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana). A reclining back bending asana.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottasana). Bending forward to the floor with the legs far apart. This variant is more challenging, as the hands are placed behind the back.
Pigeon Pose (Rajakapotsana). Seated position, with a challenging backbend.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Standing asana.
Chair Pose. (Utkatasana). A low-squatting pose whereby the arms are extended over the head.
Upward Salute Pose (Urdhava Hastasana). Standing type of asana. This forms the basis of several other asanas.
Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana). A series of standing asanas.
Tree Pose (Vrikshasana). An asana, involving the art of balancing on one leg.
Two other words that are used often in Western societies are karma and nirvana. Namaste!
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