If you've been to a yoga class, then you've probably heard the yoga teacher say "namaste" at the end of the class. However, the Sanskrit word is used in a variety of contexts outside of the yoga studio, from being a common Hindu greeting to having a more profound, more spiritual inference. While many of us don't include "namaste" in our everyday vocabulary, it's important to understand its origins and true meaning.

The literal translation of "namaste"

Namaste is a Sanskrit word that means "I bow to you." In Hinduism, it also has a spiritual meaning that reflects the belief that the divine and self are the same all of us. In this context, namaste means "the divine in me bows to the divine in you." Namaste can be something you say and do as a genuine form of expressing your gratitude and appreciation for health, wellbeing, and other people in your life.

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Namaste as a respectful hello

Namaste is a trusted traditional greeting that can be used to say hello to another person, whether it be in yoga, meditation, or another peaceful setting. The word carries a strong element of respect and can be used more generally to greet someone in both public and private settings. The first part of the word, nama, translates to "bow," which explains why the gesture involves bowing forward with the hands clasped together near the heart in prayer position. Facing someone directly during namaste demonstrates respect, thankfulness, and recognition.

Temple Visitor and Hindu Priest Greeting Each Other GCShutter / Getty Images


Saying "namaste" requires respect and positive energy

When someone places their hands together in front of their chest and bows to say "namaste," the gesture is seen as a form of respectful regard, similar to a prayer. Namaste is a genuine greeting, and it's important to embrace these emotions and think positive things before you say namaste to your yoga teacher, colleague, friend, or family member.

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The gratitude element of namaste

Namaste is all about giving thanks and acknowledging the time and effort someone has put in for you. Yoga teachers use namaste to thank their students for allowing them to teach the class and guide them through the yoga journey, while participants reciprocate the sentiment. It's ideal to be as relaxed and peaceful as you can before saying namaste to ensure the greeting is genuine and used appropriately.

Traditional Indian way of saying thank you Namaste


Namaste creates blissful energy

Namaste involves the sharing of positive energy between people. Its spiritual meaning creates vibrations of blissful energy to the recipient, passed on through the purported connection between chakras and heart centers. Yoga practice is supposed to connect people with their subconscious, leading to greater awareness of their mind, body, and soul, which makes it the perfect time to say namaste and express thanks for the presence of others.

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Namaskar vs. namaste

Namaste also translates to "salutation to you," which makes sense given its status as a graceful greeting. It's similar to the greeting "namaskar," which translates to "I pay my salutations." Some people prefer one term over the other, but many agree that namaskar is most appropriate for greeting several people, such as an entire class or audience. Meanwhile, namaste is a more personalized divine greeting for individual interactions.

lose up Indian woman hand doing Namaste


The use of namaste in yoga

Many people feel a bit nervous when they first start yoga class, as they worry they won't be able to keep up or maintain proper form. Namaste is meant to eliminate those doubts by showing that everyone is equal in their efforts. Namaste is a reminder of what is most important in yoga, which is trying your best and being proud of your body, even if it isn't perfect. Yoga teachers use namaste to finish the class on a high note and keep students feeling encouraged and motivated to continue with their yoga and meditation.

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Namaste can also be an apology

Namaste is also used as a form of apologizing, especially in Hindu culture. People may say namaste if they want to seek forgiveness, and the recipient can acknowledge and accept the apology by saying namaste in return. It's important to keep the eyes closed and the hands empty during the gesture so that it is well-received and the transfer of positive energy is uninterrupted.

namaste for forgiveness and peace Jasmina007 / Getty Images


Creating a spiritual connection through namaste

Another aspect of namaste is maintaining a physical distance. You don't want to physically touch them, as this space between each other generates a stronger positive aura and minimizes the likelihood of passing on negative energy. Think of namaste as a spiritual connection surrounding you and the other person. As long as you're using namaste for a positive purpose, it will be an effective form of spiritual communication.

namaste after yoga PeopleImages / Getty Images


Namaste is a soft, graceful gesture

Many yoga classes teach gracefulness and gentleness, which goes hand in hand with namaste. When you join your hands together, do so softly and gracefully. A light graze of your fingertips allows you to focus on the feeling and the positive energy. This way, you can honor your yoga teacher or friend with a significant spiritual transfer. If you feel graced by someone's presence, then you should say namaste to them in a peaceful setting.

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