Yoga classes follow sequences determined by the style of yoga practiced or by the instructor. What many of them have in common is the hands joined together; “Namaste” between instructor and student at the end of class. Those new to yoga may find the closing salutation somewhat “odd” or new to learn and say; others 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.
Definition of Namaste
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.”
What Does Namaste-The Gesture Mean?
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 Significance of Namaste
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.
Alternatives for Namaste
Not every yoga class ends with Namaste. In India, the word can simply mean a casual greeting similar to saying a “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.
In Iyengar yoga, classes end 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.
Whatever way you wish to express respect and gratitude at the end of your yoga class is fine, remember that it is a shared experience offering peaceful energy signifying the light and understanding that can only be found in the heart.
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