Namasté (nah-mah-stay). You hear this word at the end of every yoga class, but do you know what it means?
A traditional Indian greeting, it literally translates to “I bow to you” (namah or namas, meaning bow, te meaning you).
In India, the gesture of the prayer position of the hands not only accompanies the word, but is synonymous with its meaning. People passing on the street, family members greeting one another, children acknowledging their elders, and strangers meeting for the first time all join their palms together and bow their heads in respect of one another
When you bow your head and say namasté at the end of a yoga practice, you have the chance to do more than simply mark the ending of the session. In fact, a spiritual revelation is on the other side of a truly felt namasté and so, in the spirit of higher learning, take a look at the deeper explanation of this oft-heard, but commonly over-simplified piece of yogic wisdom.
Definition of Namasté
Western yogis have adopted the custom of closing their yoga classes with a bow of namasté. On the surface level, it is a way for the teacher and students to thank one another for time well-spent, and to close the sacred container of the yoga practice. The palms and all ten fingers touch one another, with the thumbs joining in front of the heart space or brow. It is common for the teacher to say it first, and the students to repeat it back.
A List of Translations
One of the most common translations of namasté is “The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.” However, a simple Internet search provides many beautiful meanings and translations of namasté, such as:
- I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.
- I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.
- When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.
- My soul recognizes your soul.
- We are the same, we are one.
- I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.
The Invocation to Lord Patanjali
In some of my classes we chant the invocation to Lord Patanjali, the Father of Yoga who collated the sutras that form the eightfold path of yoga we follow and practice today. Print out of the slokas is available at class for you to read and join in as we chant. You are of course welcome to just listen.
Om is a mantra vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. Coming from Hinduism and Yoga, the mantra is considered to have high spiritual and creative power but despite this, it is a mantra that can be recited by anyone. It’s both a sound and a symbol rich in meaning and depth and when pronounced correctly it is actually AUM. Aum actually consists of four syllables: A, U, M, and the silent syllable.
The first syllable is A, pronounced as a prolonged “awe.” The sound starts at the back of your throat and you stretch it out. You will start feeling your solar plexus and chest vibrating.
The second syllable is U, pronounced as a prolonged “oo,” with the sound gradually rolling forward along your upper palate. You’ll feel your throat vibrate.
The third syllable is M, pronounced as a prolonged “mmmm” with your front teeth gently touching. You will now start to feelthe top of your vibrate.
The last syllable is the deep silence of the Infinite. As intelligence rises from the deep silence, you have to merge your chant from the ‘M’ to the deep silence.
Symbolically the three letters embody the divine energy (Shakti) and it’s 3 main characteristics: (1) creation, (2) preservation and (3) liberation.
Why do we chant it?
Everything in the universe is pulsating and vibrating – nothing is really standing still! The sound Om, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature.
As such AUM is the basic sound of the universe; so by chanting it we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and acknowledging our connection to all other living beings, nature and the universe.
In addition the vibrations and rhythmic pronunciation also have a physical affect on the body by slowing down the nervous system and calming the mind similar to meditation. When the mind is relaxed,your blood pressure decreases and ultimately the health of your heart improves.
Finally it is also a way to delineate the time of our practice from the rest of our day and signify that this is a special time in which to care for ourselves and practice being mindful
All in all, beginning and/or ending your yoga practicing with AUM helps to connects us to our practice in a deeper way than just with physical posture.