“Namaste” - a Sanskrit word that you may have heard at the end of the class. Recently, yogis in the western world have been looking more carefully at how, when, and if it’s appropriate to use the word “Namaste”. This reflects in our studio too, you may have heard some teachers sealing the practice with Namaste, while some don’t. Why is this so?
Let's understand what the word Namaste means
“Namah” means “bow, salutation, reverence, adoration” “Te” is a way to address the second person = “you”
Putting it together, namaste literally translates to “bowing to you”.
A poetic translation of Namaste that I personally adore and reflects the spirit of this word is:
“My soul honors your soul.
I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides.
I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you.
Because it is also within me.
In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one.”
The spiritual significance of Namaste
Namaste is therefore a way of showing respect and a recognition that we are all equal.
It has a deep spiritual connection and roots in Hinduism that the life force, the divinity, the Self, or the God, exist within me and is the same in all beings. It is a way of reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.
Why don’t all teachers say it?
When yoga was shared broadly in Western countries, words like Namaste were misused.
For example, changing the word Namaste to slogans like Nama-slay or Nama-stay. Or using Namaste as a way to signal “class is over, you can leave now". These are classic signs of cultural appropriation.
If you have tried the classes at Yoga Cave, you’d have noticed that a few teachers don’t use the word Namaste. Let’s hear it from our teachers:
“I don’t want to say it to just pay lip service and ask others to do the same. I feel like I’m still learning and delving and perhaps in time, I will feel more appropriate to use. But in modern western yoga, where many traditions aren’t fully understood, not saying Namaste is a way I pay respect to the culture and heritage of the practice. Instead, I say thank you and use the words in English, the light in me honors the light in you, as a way to convey my deep respect to all.”- Amber
“I have never really felt comfortable saying Namaste at the end of the class because I understand the word has been fairly whitewashed as part of the Western yoga movement. I know to some students it may be considered disrespectful or out of place. That’s why I finish my classes with an acknowledgment in English that the inner light in me honors the divine light in you.”- Eva
Now, my perspective. Why do I say Namaste?
I end my class with Namaste as a gesture of respect to my students, to salute the deep spiritual work they do on the mat. Because I appreciate that the deliberate practice on the mat helps to create a better world around us.
Most importantly, saying Namaste with a bow is a sacred ritual for me. I grew up in Asia with the tradition of bowing as a way to embody respect and humbleness. Combining with the Sanskrit word Namaste, this ritual reminds me to drop my ego as the teacher. To remain humble in the practice of yoga.
Should you say Namaste or not?
Firstly, consider the meaning Namaste embodies. Do you feel aligned with its meaning? Are you saying it with deep respect?
If not, maybe consider using other words like “thank you”.
If yes, then you’re welcome to say Namaste. Be intentional and respectful when you say it. Complete it with hands in prayer and a sincere bow.
Wanna chat more about this topic? You are always welcome to chat with me or our teachers at the end of the class!
Written with love,
Yoga teacher, Life Coach, and Founder of Yoga Cave