What Is Namaste?

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Nama (bow) + Te (to you)

Namaste Definition

Namaste comes from the Sanskrit nama which means “bow” and te which means “to you” Literally it means “I bow to you” and it is a common salutation.

Namaste is normally heard at the end (and sometimes the beginning) of a yoga practice and is used to signify the end of the class.

Some teachers choose not to use namaste in classes as it is believed by some to be a form of cultural appropriation.

a woman with her hands in namaste, anjali mudra

Namaste Deep Dive

How do you say it? Although many people pronounce the word as nah-mah-STAY the correct pronunciation is more like nuh-MUH-steh.

You’ll likely hear namaste at some point if you attend yoga classes but what is its significance and why is it used?

Namaste is a formal greeting but is also a way of acknowledging the interconnectedness of all beings.

Namaste is often combined with Anjali mudra, a mudra or gesture which requires the practitioner to place the hands in prayer in front of the heart and it signifies the beginning or end of practice. It can also be used throughout practice as a reminder of interconnectedness.

Using namaste is a way of showing respect to another and is an affirmation of unity and equality with others.

a man bowing with hands in anjali mudra

Namaste in Your Life

Should you say namaste?

Not everyone is comfortable with saying namaste, which is understandable, especially if you don’t know anything about the word, language or meaning. 

Some teachers will not use the word namaste but replace it with something like “thank you”. There are some important reasons for not saying namaste. Here are a few; 

  • Not understanding the meaning of namaste
  • If you feel uncomfortable speaking in a different language
  • Not understanding the intention of namaste
  • If you feel it is culturally inappropriate to say namaste

Saying namaste on or off your mat is a great way to relate to the interconnectedness of all beings. It is a powerful way to bow in honor of each other and a wonderful way to take a little bit of yoga into your everyday life.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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