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Do You Know the Way to Namaste?
One Word and One Mudra Nicely Sum Up Yoga's Spirit


Just about every Yoga enthusiast is familiar with Namaste - both the word and the mudra, or hand position. Those of us who have been practicing Yoga for a while often find ourselves Namaste-ing all over the place - it's such a pleasant way to end Yoga practice that we get into the habit of closing our emails with it, or using it when we run into fellow Yoga practitioners outside of the Yoga studio. Most of us know the basic meaning of the word - something about the divine in me bowing to the divine in you, right? But admit it - you probably haven't really given Namaste much deep contemplation. For as much use as we give it, Namaste is somehow taken for granted - it's there, we like it, we use it. But underneath its simplicity Namaste has a richness and depth that make it more beautiful and expressive than we even realize.

(Article continued below.)

Namaste (pronounced nah-mah-STAY), like many other Yoga terms, is a Sanskrit word. What most people don't realize about Sanskrit is that it does not translate well into English - the English equivalents don't quite encompass the words' true meanings. Namaste breaks down into two parts (or three, if you want to get down the root, "Nam," which means, roughly, bowing or silently submitting). "Namas" is a reverent greeting or salutation. "Te" simply means "to you." Thus, according to the English language, Namaste means, "I salute and honor you." Very nice, but it robs a lot of meaning from the Sanskrit.
 More of this Feature
• Part 2: Prayerful Hands
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Namaste Translations
• The Ten Most Important Mudras

Te, for example, is not just "you," as in the worldly you and me. Sanskrit acknowledges the divine force that vibrates throughout every living thing and all of nature - that's a lot more powerful than just the basic English "you." The Nepalese, who have also adopted Namaste, go even further. To them Namaste means, "I honor the place in you where the whole universe dwells. When I am in that place in me, and you are in that place in you, then we are One." To them, we as humans are vessels through which the whole universe can find expression. Namaste both embraces the personal and the infinite. Call it God, light, the divine, or the all-knowing Absolute - all of that is part of "te."

Similarly, "namas" is more than just "honor" or "greeting reverently." When you're facing the Divine, even if it's in the form of another human being, reverence takes on a much fuller interpretation. It's one thing to honor your elders because they're been around longer than you have and they've seen more of the world. It's another thing altogether when you are honoring the ancient inner wisdom that is expressed through them. It's an all-encompassing type of reverence in keeping with the Sanskrit version of "you." Think about it - to really live Namaste is to come close to the feeling of bliss.

Next page >> A Handful of Peace >> Page 1, 2

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