You may overhear the word Namaste spoken in your yoga studio, around your city, or in some countries you visit around the world. But what exactly does it mean, and where does the word come from?
Namaste is a traditional greeting used in India, often accompanied by folding one’s arms across the chest, as in prayer. The word is a combination of two Sanskrit terms: namah (I bow respectfully to you) and aste (let there be). However, the literal translation is not nearly as important as the spirit of the greeting – a motion that is deferential, cordial and executed with grace and certain humility. Namaste may also be used in cross-cultural academic and business settings, although generally the Western handshake has replaced this tradition.
In the most common form, Namaste indicates “greetings” or “good day,” with an unspoken connotation of “be well” or “live well.” It is a non-contact form of greeting that can be used respectfully between people of different gender, age and social status.
Namaste may also have spiritual connotation in some instances. The use of Namaste may indicate belief between one or both parties in the “divine spark” that exists in all life – essentially one spirit recognizing another. Many that believe this divine spark rests in the heart chakra, the spiritual center of human compassion.
Namaste is most often heard in the Western world at the end of yoga practice, where it is interpreted as “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” This usage represents the spiritual nature of some yoga practice as well as the respectful bond that exists between student and teacher.