At the end of most standard yoga classes, your instructor will place her hands in prayer position in front of her heart, close her eyes, bow her head and say “Namaste.” You and the other practitioners will do the same in return. But this ancient Hindu gesture of greeting and farewell used during the surrender portion of a yoga class signals more than just the end of class -- it acknowledges the divine spark that is within everyone and can help you set an intention for the rest of your day.
The Meaning of Namaste
You can break the Hindu word "Namaste" into thirds to better divine its meaning, according to “Yoga Journal.” “Nama” means bow, “as” means I and “te” means you. String together these meanings and the literal translation of the word “Namaste” becomes clear: “bow me you” or “I bow to you.” You say Namaste at the end of a yoga class to thank your instructor and the other practitioners in the room for sharing practice and as a means of connection. Some yoga instructors may use the phrase “From the light in me to the light in you” before the word “Namaste” to verbalize this connection.
Prior to the end of class, your instructor will likely have you rest in Corpse pose, which is a pose of restoration that can help you soak in the benefits of your practice. After coming out of Corpse pose, you will likely feel calm, your mind will be still and you may feel a gentle energy connecting you to everyone else in the room. The use of “Namaste” during the surrender portion of class then can help students connect more easily with their instructor, themselves and with other students. “Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a place of connection and timelessness, free from bonds of ego-connection,” according to Aadil Palkhivala of “Yoga Journal.” “If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mild surrendered, a deep union of spirits can blossom.”
The placement of your hands in prayer pose over your head brings you in closer contact with your heart chakra, according to “Yoga Journal.” This placement can help “increase the flow of divine love,” while bowing your head in supplication and closing your eyes can help you deepen the meditative nature of this moment of surrender. You can also place your hands in prayer above your third eye, which is located in the center of your forehead.
Several nonliteral interpretations of the word "Namaste" have developed for use during the surrender portion of a yoga class, according to Jayme Barrett, author of “Feng Shui Your Life.” “Namaste” can mean “Your spirit and my spirit are one,” “All that is best and highest in me salutes all that is best and highest in you” and “I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.” What these interpretations share, says Barrett, is an intention to connect to a higher self. “Take [the idea of Namaste] with you out into the world,” says Barrett, “[and] see if it can ‘up-shift’ your daily interactions.”
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.