What Does Namaste Mean In Yoga? An Epic Guide

Woman with hands in namaste gesture
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Woman with hands in namaste gesture

Go to any yoga class and you will most likely hear the word Namaste at least once. It can be used at the beginning of the class, or at the end of the class. It can also be used when students enter the yoga studio. And so it is very common for most beginners to wonder what does namaste mean in yoga?

Namaste is a greeting, with a little extra meaning than a simple ‘hello’. It is a Sanskrit word that actually means “I bow to you” and so one way it has been translated is “the divine in me bows to the divine in you”. It is also generally accompanied by a hand gesture of two palms together.

Namaste has its origins in ancient India. It is a greeting that is commonly used in India even to this day and is most commonly used to say hello and also goodbye.

Due to its use in the yoga world, the word Namaste is now known and also used around the globe.

Namaste is both a word and a gesture. The Namaste gesture is when we press our palms together at the center of the heart. The word and the gesture together mean “the sacred in me recognizes the sacred in you”.

Related article: Why We Use Sanskrit in Yoga

Definition of Namaste

Namaste is a combination of two Sanskrit words: Namah (to bow or bend) and te (to you), which together mean: meaning “I bow to you”. The gesture together with a bow of the head is an expression of humility: ‘I recognize God in you’. Namaste is an ancient Hindu word that is used mainly in India.

In his book ‘Ancient Indian Symbols’, Chatterjee pointed out that “touching of the forehead with folded hands as the thumbs touch the forehead several times as if one is respecting the other by touching the point of the third eye or between the eyebrows”.

The word Namaste has traveled from India to the West via the yoga world. And so in yoga settings in the West, you will notice students with the Namaste gesture bowing their heads to their yoga teacher as a sign of respect.

It is also used to greet one another and is said at the start or at the end of a yoga class. The most commonly used translation for Namaste and the one you have probably heard used is: ‘the sacred in me honors the sacred in you’.

Woman in yoga class with her hands in the namaste gesture

What Does Namaste Mean in Yoga?

Namaste is a Sanskrit greeting that means the divine in me bows to the divine in you. It is commonly used at the start or the end of a yoga class as a way of greeting the students in this special manner.

The yoga teacher places his/her hands in the Namaste gesture and voices it to the class. The class then returns the gesture and repeats the word back to the teacher.

This little ritual is a form of gratitude and respect from the teacher to his/her students in the class, but also to his/her teachers. This, in turn, helps connect the students present in the class with the yoga lineage the teacher is a part of. Through this, it is easy to see that a word that may signify hello and goodbye can also mean so much more.

By placing our hands in front of the heart, we are honoring our heart chakra, and the Divine spark within each of us. By bowing our head and touching our fingertips to the third eye, or the brow chakra, we are also allowing our minds to meet.

The Spiritual Meaning of Namaste

The word ‘Namaste’ has a deep spiritual significance. It recognizes the belief that the life force, or the Divine, in me is the same in you and the same in all. When we acknowledge the concept of oneness we, in turn, honor the Divine in the person we meet.

Most of us in the West may not know or embody the full meaning of the term Namaste. We may use it as an alternative way of saying hello.

And yet when two Hindus meet, the term Namaste signifies the recognition of the divinity within ourselves. This, in turn, extends a warm welcome to each other.

How to Make the Namaste Gesture

Namaste is both a word and a gesture. So let’s now look at how to do the hand gesture (or Mudra) properly.

  • Bring the two palms of your hands together.
  • Place these in front of your chest.
  • And lastly, say the word Namaste and whilst doing so bow your head toward the tips of your fingers.

Beautiful meanings of Namaste

Ask any yoga teacher and they most likely tell you that Namaste means “The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you”. And they’re not wrong. Indeed, this translation is the most commonly used meaning for Namaste.

And yet, dig a little further and you may find some other beautiful meanings of Namaste. Here are a few I came across:

  • The God in me greets the God in you
  • To honor the spirit within
  • I bow to you.
  • My soul recognizes your soul (this one is my personal favorite)

Does Namaste mean hello?

Namaste is a form of greeting practiced used in India. It is used both as hello and goodbye and it is a popular non-contact form of greeting. It is an ancient Hindu word that was mentioned in the Vedas as a form of traditional greeting. It is a form of showing respect to one another.

An alternative word for it is Namaskār and it is used to say hello and is accompanied by a slight bow. The hands are placed together in front of the heart in what is known as the Namaskar Mudra.

What language is Namaste?

Namaste is an ancient Hindu word and the language is Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a language of the ancient Indian subcontinent and it was the traditional means of communication in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It was used in religious and philosophical texts, such as the yoga texts.

Colourful signs with the word 'Namaste' carved and painted.

What does it mean to say Namaste?

In India, Namaste is used as a greeting. In the West, Namaste is used in the yoga world and is commonly heard in yoga classes. Namaste is generally mentioned at the start and/or end of a yoga class by the teacher as a way to greet the class and link the practice to his/her lineage of teachers.

There is a deeper and more spiritual meaning to the word Namaste as has been discussed in this article. However, nowadays, it can be argued that in the West, the meaning of Namaste has been misused, especially when used freely, without an awareness of its rich meaning.

Does Namaste mean peace?

Namaste can indirectly be understood to mean peace. Namaste is a greeting and one translation is: “The divine in me honors the divine in you.” And so whether you want to perceive it in a religious form or not, the deeper meaning of the word Namaste means peace and equality. I bow to you.

And when you think of it like that, how more beautiful can a greeting be?

How do you respond when someone says Namaste?

The way to respond to Namaste is to mimic it. When in India, it is common to be greeted with the word Namaste, followed by the hand gesture and the bow of the head. To respond, place your palms in front of your heart, say Namaste and bow your head bringing the tips of your fingers to your forehead.

If you get to spend some time in India this form of greeting will become very second nature to you.

Does Namaste mean goodbye?

Namaste is an ancient Hindu word that can be used to greet someone, but it is also used as a way of saying goodbye. If you have ever been to a yoga class you may have noticed that the teacher closes the class with the word Namaste. This is done as a form of saying goodbye to the class.

Is Namaste a religious word?

Namaste is not a religious word. It is a form of Hindu greeting. And so like with many words that have been taken from their tradition and used in a foreign setting (such as yoga in the West) it can be argued that in the West the word Namaste is not religious.

It is perhaps more accurate to describe Namaste as being a spiritual word. This way it is not loaded with religion and it can maintain its beautiful and peaceful meaning.

If we were to try to understand if the word Namaste is a religious word for Hindus, then yes, it is a religious word. They believe that the Divine lives at the center of your heart chakra and so the Namaste gesture honors the Divine in both people present.

And so the word Namaste can be a casual greeting or even a form greeting. It can also be an act of worship. It all depends on the person and the setting.

How do you pronounce Namaste?

There are two things to think about when trying to pronounce the word Namaste. The first is that there is a slightly hard ‘th’ sound rather than a hard ‘t’ sound. Also, aim to keep it short and condensed rather than dragging it out.

The video below with help guide you to properly pronounce the word Namaste.

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