If you’ve attended a yoga class, chances are the class concluded with your hands in a prayer gesture at your heart while saying, “Namaste”. While closing a yoga class with “Namaste” and a bow doesn’t come from ancient tradition, It’s a fairly common way to close a yoga practice here – and for good reason!
In a very basic way, namaste simply means “I bow to you” (namah or names means bow and te means you in Sanskrit). Likewise, using Anjali Mudra, or prayer position, symbolizes basically the same thing. The right hand represents the physical activities. The left hand represents mental activities including both intellectual and emotional. The heart center represents the self. Bowing our head down toward our hands and heart then can represent bringing all of our faculties together indicating “I am full and I recognize the fullness in you”. It is not uncommon for people in India to greet each other, family and strangers, with their hands together and their head bowed, and a spoken “Namaste” out of respect.
The most common, more spiritual translation of namaste is “The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you”. Other translations of namaste include:
- I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
- I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
- When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.
- My soul recognizes your soul.
- We are the same, we are one.
- I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
In a very real sense, the utterance of namaste to another person represents the idea that we are all one. It is a true expression that you see yourself in others. According to Deepak Chopra:
“As a human being, it is in your nature to forget this truth—that every person, thought, feeling, and experience is a perfect expression of the one Divine awareness. When a being does forget (by feeling separate, less than, better than, or identifying with any external, impermanent aspect of being more so than its true nature), it suffers. What would life be like if you saw others as perfectly whole? What if you saw yourself this way? A namasté between two yogis is a pact made to honor the highest, truest, most authentic parts of themselves, and let their limitations fall away. “
You might not greet your neighbors with a friendly bow and, “Namaste” at the grocery store, but maybe you can see people as equal, as whole, as an extension of yourself. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful way for us all to live and work together in the world?