What Do You Say at the End of Yoga Class?

In yoga, a hand gesture speaks as eloquently as words.
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Yoga classes follow sequences determined by the style of yoga or by the instructor. What many of them have in common is the hands-joined "Namaste" between instructor and student at the end of class. Newcomers may find the closing salutation yet another convention to master, and oldtimers may say the word without thinking about it. But Namaste has a rich meaning and long history and can sum up the work of your entire yoga practice.

The Word

Namaste is a conjoined Sanskrit word consisting of "nama," meaning bow, "as," meaning I, and "te," meaning you. Literally, it means "I bow to you." It is often the last event of a yoga class as both the instructor and the student honor the connection to the grace of yoga and express respect and gratitude to each other for the shared experience. "Yoga Journal" says performing Namaste at the close of a class taps into the composure and peaceful energy acquired from doing asanas and deepens the awareness of the heart chakra. The Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar, begins and ends with a silent gesture of greeting that signifies the light of understanding that can only be found in the heart.

The Gesture

The gesture of joining the hands, palms together, over the heart is a yoga pose known as Anjali Mudra. Anjali means "offering." A mudra is a hand gesture. The Sanskrit meaning of mudra is "seal" or "sign" and the gestures referred to as mudras are sacred symbols for some aspect of the divine or the inspiration for a feeling of reverence. Mudras are found in Indian culture in classical dance, ritual and yoga poses. They may be spontaneous hand movements in experiences of kundalini energy known as "kriyas." Anjali Mudra connects the "offering" of spoken Namaste to an action that brings both hands together over the heart, joining the right and left hemispheres of the brain, completing the unification of yin and yang and centering the self in the light-filled core of yoga practice.

The Tradition

The significance of the Namaste is complete surrender or devotion to the divine spark in another. When offered in gratitude or in greeting, Namaste recognizes that all beings are sacred and that, as an equal, the devotee may partake of the merit and knowledge of the teacher. According to Nitin Kumar, a Sanskrit translator and Vedic scholar, the sound of the Namaste is equivalent to a sacred chant, a mantra that aligns the speaker with the resonance of universal harmony. In Kumar's interpretation, the spoken and gestured Namaste is a brief meditation, an opening between the individual spirit and the divine.


Not every yoga class ends with Namaste. In modern India, the word can simply mean a casual greeting similar to "hello." Closing a shared practice with Namaste is a choice, and some teachers choose different ways to honor the connection. Chanting "Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti," calling upon the heart of creation for peace, brings the energy of purpose to the work just completed. B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of the eponymous yoga system, ends class with an invocation to Patanjali, sage and author of the "Yoga Sutras." Teachers may prefer to close with a mantra like "Om Namah Shivaya," which honors Lord Shiva, the master of yoga and the symbol of creative energy. And others, mindful of adaptations to Western sensibilities, simply say "Thank you," as often as not accompanied by the Anjali Mudra that silently communicates Namaste.

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