even if you don’t know anything about yoga, you have probably heard this word before. it’s sort of like yoga’s “catchphrase.” many people know about it, and probably even know it is used as a greeting or a closing gesture from one person to the next. but namaste has a much deeper meaning than just a yogi’s term for hello or goodbye.
if you googled it, you would probably find numerous definitions for namaste all varying slightly in how they are worded or phrased. some of the most common ones are, “the light in me honors the light in you,” or “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.”
namaste is an old sanskrit word and can be broken down into three parts: nama means “bow”, as means “i”, and te means “you.” So very literally namaste means, “i bow to you.” namaste is seen as deep sign of respect and is typically uttered at the end of a practice or session to a fellow practitioner or teacher and accompanied with the hands in a praying position.
i heard the definition for namaste pretty early on, in fact in my first ever yoga session with Tony Horton back in the day(see —> where is here?) but it wasn’t until recently, through the commitment to my new practice where i truly began to comprehend the power and depth behind it. once amy and i committed to doing some sort of yogic practice daily, most of the time together if our schedules allowed, we would always finish by bowing to each other(and once to each of our two dogs of course-can’t leave them out!) as is typical of how you end a session and saying the phrase. and day after day as i looked into amy’s eyes and bowed towards her my eyes began to open to the true depth of the phrase.
yoga is a practice and a journey for each and every person regardless of where you are in life. you don’t need to be flexible or in shape or live in some hip city close to a yoga studio to start. the practice of yoga begins from within the heart, and it is the heart where the divine dwells. this is essentially what the gesture of namaste is honoring. each and every person is endowed with a divine spark, or light deep inside their soul and as my palms touch and as my head bows, i honor this divine spark inside of you, knowing that same divine spark lives inside of me. in bowing, we affirm submission to the divine spark, to the light, to the journey that each and every person is a part of. in bowing we recognize that each and every person, no matter what their past was, or what their future holds, carries inside them a connection to eternity and at this moment we look past the outward shell and see and honor this light inside, because as a human, it is the same light i carry inside of me.
the world can be a dark place sometimes. yeah i know, super cliche right. the reason that has become a such cliche phrase is simply because it is true, depending on what you are looking at. and as history tells us, people doing bad things towards other people will never cease to end. i don’t think the practice and embracing of the namaste philosophy will completely flip that on a large scale. but if we start with acknowledging the spark inside ourselves and the people around us, and if we stop focusing on the potential for darkness people carry and the flaws they are endowed with and instead begin seeing people how we should: for the capacity they have to do good and to love, then our minds and hearts will slowly open and loving our neighbor as ourselves won’t be a reminder on our task list each day, but a natural outpouring of the divine spark, the connection to eternity that we contain inside ourselves. choose to acknowledge your own capacity for love and goodness- the light inside your heart, and then in turn to the people you interact with today, tomorrow and the next, and the lotus will begin to open and the world will begin to change.