Yoga Lingo

Namaste Meaning - What You Need to Know

Posted on 2019-01-13



If you have ever attended a yoga class, then you are familiar with the word Namaste. But do you really know Namaste meaning? Many people take Namaste to only be a traditional but respectful greeting practiced in India. However, it is much more than greeting hello or goodbye. Namaste is one of the six forms of pranama in Hindi tradition.


Namaste appears in many ancient Hindu scripts. For instance, it appears in the Rigveda 8.75.10, Atharvaveda verse 6.13.2 and Taittirya Samhita amongst others. The origin of Namaste is unknown. However, it has been practiced for ages in India. It is a great sign of obedience and submission from one being to another.


Namaste is also seen in many temples in India and Thai. It can be seen in statues and in many medieval era sculptures of gods and other beings. Namaste meaning can be described literally from translating the meaning from Sanskrit. We can also derive the meaning of Namaste from a spiritual point of view.



Namaste Vs Namaskar

Namaste is a Sanskrit word that is a combination of two words “namah” and “te.” Namah means bow, reverential salutation or adoration. Te, on the other hand, means ‘to you.’ Namaste, therefore, translates to ‘I bow to you’ in literal terms. The ‘s’ between the two words is used to join nama and te as described in the Sanskrit language.


Namaskar or Namaskara, on the other hand, is derived from the Sanskrit words Namah and skara. Kaara translates to doing. This word has been used in ancient Hindu scripture used in the sense of paying homage, salutation, and worship. Both Namaste and Namaskar are used interchangeably by many.


"The light within me bows to the light within you."


However, Namaskar is usually used in saluting many people as opposed to Namaste which is used in greeting a single individual. When using Namaskar you are simply saying that ‘I pay my salutations to all of you’ rather than to a single person.


A yoga teacher opening a class where they are greeting many people they can say Namaskar, however when greeting only one student then Namaste is more appropriate. Since both these terms have the basic term Namah, they are both salutations. They have the same basic meaning.



The spiritual meaning of Namaste

Namaste is not only about sending greetings. It has a deeper spiritual Namaste meaning in Hinduism. Namaste means that “I bow to the divine in you.” When performing the Namaste salutation you are simply recognizing that there is a divine entity in each and every person. Therefore the sacred entity in yourself will be saluting the sacred being in the person you are greeting.


Further, ‘Nama’ can also be reduced to Na and Ma which are equivalent to ‘not mine.’ In this spiritual meaning of the word Namaste, you are separating yourself from your human body. Your spirituality separates from your physical being and only the divine in you is left behind.


"I bow to the divine in you"


Further, the term also means that you are sending your peace and spirituality to someone in hope of receiving something positive. At the end of a yoga class, for instance, Namaste is said to thank the yoga teacher. It also reminds you to thank the other students and eventually you realize that you are not alone in this world.


Namaste reminds us that we are special and in this world together, therefore, we should all respect each other. With Namaste you acknowledge the sacred being in every other person you send the salutations to. This enables one to look deeper into their spirituality and understand who they are. You can, therefore, live your life with the principles of Namaste.


In spiritually also, Namaste is translated as ‘the light in me honors the light in you.’ Again here you are acknowledging that people are more than just the human bodies. There is more to a person than what we see and therefore you respect and honor that god in them. The god that shines a light in them is the same one that shines the light in you.



Things to remember the next time you say namaste



  • Namaste is not only said at the end of a yoga lesson. It can be said anywhere to people of all ages including children. This is because you are recognizing the divinity inside a person not really the physical body of the person.
  • Use the correct pronunciation for Namaste. This Sanskrit word is pronounced as nuh-mUH-st-hey. The emphasis is placed on the second syllable. Learning the correct pronunciation will give you confidence and make you proud when saying Namaste.
  • To do the Namaste properly, bring your palms together in añjali mudrā (prayer position) close to heart chakra. Letting your palms touch your heart means that you are saying and doing this from your heart.
  • If you decide to do Namaste with a gesture then it should also be followed with a slight bow of the head. Do not bow too much at the waist just bow the head.
  • Maintain eye contact with the person that you are saluting with the Namaste gesture. This will show sincerity and bring the required bond.
  • You can use Namaste to show respect, to salute elders, to say thank you, to welcome a stranger, to show your gratitude, and to just recognize the power of divinity that resides in the other person’s heart. This is especially true for someone that you share the same spirituality with.


Namaste can change your life because of the deeper spiritual meaning attached to it. When you practice Namaste it gives you that inner calm and peace. You respect the other people and revere the gods in them. You acknowledge that the god in you is the same in all people. With this, you can, therefore, live a better life if you attach Namaste to your friends, relatives, family, and neighbors.


Regardless of the Namaste meaning that you choose to take, whether spiritual or not, Namaste is important. This is not only in yoga but also in daily living. Namaste can improve the quality of your life. It can enhance the way you relate with other people. It can also enhance how other people see you and how you make them feel.



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