If you have attended a yoga class, you are probably at least vaguely familiar with the word Namaste. Whether or not you understand the meaning of the word and the gesture that goes along with it, however, is another question.

Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Put together, Namaste means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.” When the word Namaste is said, either at the beginning and/or the end of class, yoga teachers and students alike bring the hands together in front of the heart, close the eyes, and bow the head forward. The gesture may also be performed by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and moving the heads down to the heart. Interestingly, when the gesture is preformed in India, the word is not simultaneously spoken, as it often is in the West. This is because in India, the gesture alone is considered to embody the meaning of the word.

Namaste expresses the belief that there is a “divine spark” within each of us, located in the heart chakra. Because Namaste is an act of the heart, the mind is able to surrender and we are able to connect with others at the energetic or spiritual level. In this way, Namaste helps to free us of the strict confines of the ego.

While Namaste can be performed either at the beginning or at the end of a yoga class, it is usually done at the end of the class, when the mind is more peaceful. It is led by the teacher as a gesture of gratitude and most importantly, as a reminder that we are all one when we live and love from the heart.

The light in me bows to the light in each of you. Namaste.

Maddy  | Yogi Contributor