Diary Of A Happy Yogi: Namaste
Posted: February 27, 2017 at 2:03 pm, Last Updated: February 27, 2017 at 4:57 pm
By: Ashley Whimpey
The practiced students hum the word in return, “namaste.” A few of the newbies mumble it a beat too late and glance around uncertain.
It means, “the light in me, honors the light in you.” Namaste stems from ancient sanskrit. Sanskrit is an Indian language primarily acknowledged in the West from yogic practices. Traditional yoga practiced in the West originated in India, and many of the names of foundational practices have a Sanskrit translation. For example the final resting pose in class, Corpse Pose, translates from savasana. Asana translates into pose, so literally sava, “corpse” + asana “pose.”
Namaste does not end with asana, however. It does have a pose associated with it – Pranamasana,a gesture over the heart with the hands together, translating to “complete” (pra) “salutation” (nam) “pose” (asana). Namaste comes from “respect, to bow, obeisance, and reverential salutation” (namas) and “to you” (te). Thus the literal translation becomes, I bow to you.
When taken into a practice or used in greeting, the meaning shaped by the gesture and word indicate an acknowledgement of the good in the first seeing the good in the second. A teacher saying it to a student then acknowledges the good in their own self, and how it sees and appreciates the good in the student.
Often mythical traditions refer to this good as a golden being. The being radiates kindness, and a sort of glow. This develops into the signifier of light. Thus, “the light in me, honors and sees the light in you,” is also another very common understanding of the word.
Namaste is used to close classes, as a signal that the time together for the moment has ended, and a request that the students go forth to use their renewed light to shine for others as well. It’s a reminder mindfulness and meditation practices are not meant to be insular forever, and instead are intended to provide refuge so that we might continue to see one another and grow a more compassionate and effective world.
Oxford English Dictionary, Draft Revision June 2010.
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Dass, Ram (1976). Grist For The Mill. Unity Press.
Finnegan, Dave (1993). Zen of Juggling. Jugglebug. ISBN 9780961552152.