Namaste: Why We Say It

I don't think I've ever been to a yoga class that does not close with "Namaste" and a bow with hands to heart center.  When I first started taking yoga classes, this practice felt alien to me.  I did it, but it just felt strange.  Looking back, I think if I'd known what Namaste meant and why it is used to close a yoga class, it would have made a difference to me.

Namaste is a Sanskrit word.  The poses have Sanskrit names as do the breath practices.  Using the language of Sanskrit sprinkled through my personal practice and classes serves as a reminder that practicing yoga is not simply exercise for my body.  This is my personal thought process but one that is pretty common in the realm of yoga.  The Sanskrit deepens the meaning of what I'm doing when I'm practicing.  The ancient roots of yoga seem more present with the inclusion of Sanskrit.  My breath becomes an important part of the flow of movement, and I remember to be mindfully connected to my practice.  Sanskrit isn't absolutely necessary to accomplish these goals, but it does help to set the stage.

During Namaste, we usually place our hands at heart center, which might bring to mind intoning a prayer.  However, the intention is different, even though Anjali Mudra is sometimes called Prayer Hands.  Anjali is Sanskrit for "to offer" or "salute."  Mudra means "to seal," and mudras are the hand poses of yoga.  So, when you bring your hands to heart center, you are offering something, like gratitude or respect, and sealing in your practice as a way to take it with you and to carry the benefits of it throughout your day.  

At the end of class when seated taking Anjali Mudra, we bow in while saying, "Namaste."  Why?  The literal meaning is "I bow to you" or something pretty close to that.  Yoga scholar Aadil Palkhivala explains that the teacher begins the Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students.  Students return that sentiment to the teacher with their own Namastes.  

Namaste acknowledges the spark of our soul that is said to be found in our heart space.  Soul, individual personality, inner light.....pick the one that resonates with you.  As an alternative to Namaste, I've had teachers instead say, "The light in me honors the light in you." 

Quite simply, Namaste is a wonderful way to seal in our practice and to acknowledge with gratitude the opportunity to have practiced yoga together.  

Speaking of practicing together, the August schedule for Yoga in the Park is available on the website's calendar.  I've added a Thursday evening class and a Kids' Yoga in the Park class on Monday afternoons this month.  

With one month of classes complete with Yoga in the Park, I'm grateful to those of you who have come out to practice with me.  You are helping me to realize the dream of a new path in life.  I hope to be able to return the favor and to give you something positive in return.  Namaste.