Namaste. Where does the word we hear so often come from? What does it mean and for what purpose do we use it?
Namaste is a word derived from sanskrit, the ancestral language of Nepal and India. Of course, it has transcended its origin and is now used daily throughout India and in countries with a culture of buddhist tradition. In the West, it has been extended especially by circles related to the practice of yoga, in which it is interpreted as an expression of greetings or good wishes and used as a farewell at the end of each class.
It is a term that can be accepted by all religions and be used without any religious connotations.
“Namas”, which means “reverence” or “salutation”, derives from nam, which has the meaning of “prostrate” or “incline.” The suffix “te” means “to you.” Thus namaste literally means “reverence to you” or “I bow before you.”
In addition to the strictly semantic aspect of the word, the philosophical aspect gives it a more beautiful and profound meaning that represents a form very worthy of one person to greet the other.
The bodily attitude that commonly accompanies the pronunciation of the word is mudrā मुद्रा (sanskrit word for the symbolism of gestures) is the support of open palms and joints on the center of the chest or on the chin with a gentle slope of the head, which shows recognition and humility before the other.
Although this word is commonly spoken in the West in conjunction with the position of hands, it is understood in the East that the gesture alone, done in silence, already expresses meaning, and there is no need to pronounce the word. Depending on the purpose of bowing, the position of the hands may vary, being placed at the forehead or completely above the head.
On the other hand, the use of the term doesn’t need to always come accompanied by the gesture of joining hands or greeting, it can only be an internal attitude of one person to the other, bringing the challenge of seeking the best of oneself to offer the other and, at the same time, of recognizing and admiring the greatness of the other. When we do this reverence or just mentalise it toward someone, we are indicating the person that we go beyond differences, connecting to them in an attitude of equality.
Namaste goes far beyond a greeting. It is an extremely loving greeting that comes from within, it is no coincidence that the hands are placed near the chest, that is, close to the heart. By pronouncing it, one must seek what is most sacred in oneself to greet the best part of the other.
Symbolically, when the head is tilted, it is as if the ego were curved and the gesture only departed from the heart, and the union of the left hand with the right showed a sign of respect to those who salute. The word “respect” comes from the Latin “respicere”, which means “to look again or attentively”. From this understanding we can allow our gaze to become an enchanting attitude by the process of the other, in a reverence that is born of the perception that our rhythm is neither superior nor inferior to the other, just different.
When used with understanding, the expression establishes a true bond with the other and reflects a deep humility before them.
It invokes the idea that all people share the same essence, the same energy, the same universe. It is as if word and deed have a very strong peacemaking force.
In yoga classes, we use namaste more often at the end of practice because it is considered to be the time when the mind is less active and the room environment is more conducive to performing the act linked to its true meaning. By executing it, the connection between teacher and student is confirmed, when one bows to the other in a sign of reciprocal gratitude for the shared moment.
The mere fact of fully understanding the ancestral meaning of this word makes us pronounce it much more coherently and urges us to consciously participate in all the wisdom implicit in the force of this salutation, which, in a possible somewhat broader and more poetic interpretation, affirms:
I honor this place within you, where the whole universe dwells;
I honor this place within you, of love and light, of truth and peace;
And when I am in this place within me and you are in that place within you, we are only one.
And to every one who sought this understanding here, I leave my namaste.
-Yoga teacher of Kaiut School, Praça da Espanha, Curitiba