We say this at the end of every yoga class. I remember going to my first class and being embarrassed to say it. I didn’t know what it meant so I didn’t want to commit to something I didn’t believe in. My teacher would say ‘from my light to yours’ or something of that nature but it really didn’t contribute to my own practice or to my understanding of the word Namaste or why it was even necessary to say at the end of practice.
Through my yoga practice and studies, I’ve heard many different interpretations of the word. Rest assured that they all feel ‘good’, but I’m not just going for a feel good approach with my yoga practice. I want to absorb and saturate myself with honest practices and intentions. I want to live in a way that I feel calm and equanimous because I am far from that right now. I believe it starts with understanding what I am doing and why... so I will start with: Namaste.
Please know that some of this is based on research and some of it is based on my interpretation of that research. I’m a beginner yogi so my thoughts and experiences are a work in progress. This is where I am at today. It might not be the same place that you are at with your practice and that’s okay. It means that we can have open discussion about all of this in a way that is non-judgmental and inquisitive
Directly translated, Namaste means I bow to you. This makes total sense to me because when you say the words, you typically place your hands in a prayer position (Anjali mudra) and bow. So that’s it right? I just bow. Hell no. If that’s all it was then it would be too simple and surface level. Everything always has a deeper meaning. It’s just whether or not we choose to learn it and practice it as the truth.
I read this one explanation by Nicolai Bachman that was simply beautiful. He said that the word Namaste comes from two words: ‘namaha’ and ‘te’. Namaha means ‘reverence’. I know what reverence means but I still went back to a dictionary for more clarity as sometimes you need the right words at the right time. The definition I got was ‘deep respect for someone or something’. ‘Te’ actually means ‘to you’. What Bachman explains is that Namaste is about an acknowledgment, respect and awareness of the lightness in someone else. The word Namaste is about this reverence of light within someone else which ultimately leads us to treating everyone around us as we would like to be treated because we recognize this ultimate goodness or lightness in others that we feel within ourselves. This is an acknowledgement that we all have the same lightness and that it deserves to be treated with respect and honesty in everyone else as much as it should be for ourselves. Could it be then, that Namaste is about that basic childhood teaching of ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated’? My answer to this is: of course... but Namaste goes one step further to acknowledge WHY this should be the case. It’s because we all have lightness within us. We all have goodness within us.
This is just a first step in my philosophical understanding of Namaste and all that it intends. This week, in my yoga classes, when I bow to my students and to my teachers and say ‘Namaste’, I’m going to be thoughtful and aware of their lightness and goodness within to see how it feels to truly honor the people around me. I won’t just say empty words that sound nice at the end of class. I’m going to embrace those words and send that energy to everyone in the room. At this point, I don’t know how it might be perceived by others or if they will even notice, but I am hoping that I will, for myself. I am hoping that this honest intention of acknowledgement of light within the people around me will help to build my awareness of how much goodness and lightness there is around me.