Namaste, pronounced nah-mas-tay, is a word and gesture that has increasingly gained popularity in the west with the advent of meditation and yoga these last past decades. If you’ve ever been to India or any Buddhist country for that matter or even a yoga class in a western country, you have probably come across the gesture and phrase namaste. A gesture which is widespread in India, where you place the palms against each other, near your heart while bowing slightly and uttering the word namaste.
Like most terms in yoga, the word namaste is derived from Sanskrit, the holy language of ancient India, where “namah” means to bow and “as” means I and “te” means you. Which together ends up meaning:
I bow to you.
It is a gesture of greeting, respect and reverence but there’s also a deeper meaning to namaste. A sacred, and I dare say exquisitely beautiful meaning, namely to recognize the divinity in one another. In other words namaste signifies that we’re all part of something bigger than what our daily lives normally gives the impression of. The cosmos and the miracle of consciousness, there is an underlying intelligence which sustains us and which we can recognize and appreciate.
On a more casual note, namaste is also often performed before and after a normal yoga class, where the instructor thanks his students and the students do the same to the teacher by gesturing and saying namasté.
How to perform namaste
In case you’re not entirely sure on how to perform this graceful gesture, here’s a few pointers:
- Place both palms facing each other in front of the heart, at the heart chakra.
- Close your eyes and do a little bow, mostly with your head. If you wish to display extra reverence and respect you can also place both hands facing each other in front of your forehead at the third eye. You can also do the opposite where you begin with your hands placed against each other in front of the forehead and slowly bring your hands down to the level of the heart.
- You can utter the word namaste while doing the hand gesture (mudra) or remain silent, its up to you and the occasion. For the most part, the gesture speaks for itself.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.