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Why Yoga Teachers Say Namaste?

by Arundhati Baitmangalkar

Have you been in a yoga class where the yoga teacher opened or ended with ‘namaste‘? Were you left wondering why they were doing that? Have you wondered what the connection is between yoga and ‘namaste’? Read on to understand what this buzz word ‘namaste‘ means, how to it came into yoga, and what it symbolizes.

Origins of the word ‘Namaste’?

The word ‘namaste‘ is an Indian greeting. Much like how you would say ‘hello’, ‘hi’ or ‘good day’ to someone, ‘namaste’ is used commonly for this purpose in India to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.

What Namaste means?

‘Namaste’ acknowledges the divinity within us all. It means ‘I bow to you’. It is a humble greeting where we are acknowledging to the people in front of us that we are essentially alike. The ‘self’ within us all is made up of the same nature.

How to perform the Namaste gesture?

  • Seated upright or standing, bring the palms of both hands together.
  • Lightly press them against one another, and let the root of the thumb press against the heart center.
  • Bow the head towards the heart as you say ‘Namaste‘.
  • Release the hands after the greeting.
  • The thumb touching the heart center, symbolizes the ‘self’ (jivatma) within us. The index finger points to the greater self (paramatma) and the little finger acknowledges all the living beings in front of us.
  • The right and left hands meeting at the heart center also recognize that we are made up of opposites in life and we continue to live peacefully despite those opposites.

Yoga class and Namaste?

Almost all yoga teachers in the western world today end their class with ‘namaste‘, whether they fully understand this gesture or otherwise. Know that your yoga teacher is not more or less authentic if they use the word or not. It really has nothing to do with yoga quite literally. Perhaps when foreigners entered India to study yoga, their teachers said ‘Namaste’ before or after classes, as it was the local form of greeting. It is also important to remind ourselves that India is more formal in nature due to the British influence, so you will not find your average yoga teachers saying, ‘hey’, ‘what’s up’ or ‘how’s it going?’.

This term is one of many that got blindly imported. It also has a certain mystical appeal to it, and yoga classes, teachers and the greeting became synonymous with each other. But once again, do not judge the caliber of your yoga teacher just because they say ‘namaste, ‘om’ and a few other Sanskrit words that you may or may not understand. If your yoga teacher says, ‘howdy’ and does a fine job of teaching yoga, then that’s all that really matters.

Watch the video of what ‘namaste‘ really means in a yoga class here.

So next time you hear your yoga teacher say ‘namaste‘, you will understand a bit more about what it means.





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