Nowadays, in the West, we use Namaste wrongly, without knowing what it really means or why we do it !
Is it a pretentious way to look like a yogi ?
A tendency among people who call themselves "spiritual"?
Or a way to show that we are part of a community that says it is very "in"?
Maybe yes, maybe not…who knows !
Namaste, नमस्ते or Namaskar, नमस्कार, means "I greet or acknowledge the divine in you".
In India and Nepal, it is used to greet, to say hello and goodbye, and also sometimes to say thank you.
Traditionally, the palms are always joined, either at chest level to mark a general respect, which is what is done at the end of a yoga class to thank the teacher and the knowledge he has shared with the class.
Either by raising the hands above the head to greet the deities or by raising the hands to the height of the face to greet the older people or the masters or the spiritual guides.
The gesture, together with the word and the look, makes Namaste much more than a simple "hello, how are you ?" without looking into each other's eyes, or even expecting any reaction !
Often, we say "hello" in a mechanical way or even distracted without listening to the answer !
Namaste is more than a basic "hello".
It is a moment, where two people are caught in an experience of presence and mutual recognition.
It is a small moment of awareness that forces us to be present !
Indian culture places a high value on respect, discipline and structure.
The Namaste at the beginning of a yoga class is a reflection of this respect and tradition.
In the West, we love the teachings and traditions of the East, but unfortunately, we tend to play with them, and want to change their meanings to suit our own ideals and needs.
We will distort them, shape them into an image that the Western mind will understand and will be able to appropriate without thinking too much, just because it looks cool and trendy !!
Under the pretext of business, marketing will be the so-called "precursor" of certain techniques that have nothing new, but which in the eyes of the consumer will be fashionable and fun.
This removes all strength and purity from these ancestral teachings.
Yet, you will find that Namaste is much deeper than a distracting "hello, how are you".
Namaste forces us to be humble, to respect, to recognize.
Namaste forces us to recognize and see the other as a person.
I often say to my students in my classes : "You are all sleeping little Buddhas...the trick is to wake them up !
So, Hello or Namaste, looking the person straight in the eyes, will raise your greeting to a higher level of consciousness, on the way to the Great Awakening !!!
Founder AngieYoga School
Certified Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga teacher R-RYT500