Namaste Symbol: Origins, History, and Meaning 

You’ve just finished a 90-minute Bikram sweat session. After finishing the child’s pose, your instructor sits up, clasps her hands, and says the phrase you hear at the start and end of every yoga class. Namaste.

If you’re anything like me, you hear this phrase two to four times every week (if you’re lucky enough to fit in two lessons!). But have you ever considered what it means? Have you ever felt goosebumps from this word and had no idea why? Do you wonder if your yoga instructor understands what you’re saying? Let’s answer all those questions today in this article about Namaste symbol.

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Meaning of Namaste

Namaste translates to “the light in me honors and appreciates the light in you” and is commonly heard at the beginning and/or finish of a yoga or meditation class. The word “light” refers to the soul or the Divine. We say this to let one another know that we observe them and are interested in their spiritual and/or yogic path.

When using the namaste greeting, put your palms together in the center of your chest and bow as you say Namaste. It also denotes thankfulness, connection, and mutual regard.

Namaste may be broken down into nama, which means bow, as, which means I, and te, which means you, and combined means I bow to you.

Most say Namaste by putting their palms together at the heart center, representing the heart chakra, or by bringing your palms first to the forehead center, representing the third eye chakra.

Namaste is, at the very least, an acknowledgment of equality. Others, though, see it on a deeper, more spiritual level.

Namaste literally translates to “I bow to you,” but it actually conveys much more. Not only does the word allude to the literal bow you make at the end of class, but it also refers to the bow you and your teacher’s soul make.

Hindus believe a heavenly soul resides in the core of your heart chakra.

By bowing, placing your hands together as if praying, and saying Namaste, you are acknowledging the spiritual presence inside each of us.

It is stated at the beginning and end of each lesson since it is used as a greeting and acknowledgment as you leave.

Not only is your instructor acknowledging and thanking you, but she is also doing the same for her colleagues. The energy travels through her body, your body, and her past and present teachers’ bodies.

By saying this, we declare that, even though we are all different beings, we are all one at the same. We are all linked. ​

History​ and origins of Namaste

Now that we know why we say Namaste in yoga, where did the phrase come from?

How is it utilized throughout the rest of the world?

Unfortunately, no one knows where the term came from. Even though it has been used for various reasons over the years, Some believe it was used to demonstrate complete surrender to another being. However, it was also used to show respect for elders.

Buddhists use it to demonstrate respect for one another. The term is also extensively used in Nepal, so you may see this gesture fairly frequently if you visit this part of the world. ​

Figurines depicting individuals in Namaste pose dating back to 2000 BCE or possibly 3000 BCE have been discovered in India, indicating that the posture, if not the name, has been employed for thousands of years.

Namo vah is used instead of Namaste in various instances. The concept is the same, but because the vah refers to the second person plural, the phrase is used when three or more persons acknowledge the Divine in one another.

Other civilizations, it turns out, have their interpretations of Namaste. For example, when shaking hands, the Japanese use the phrase Gassho.

 Namaste as a symbol

Namaste is frequently associated with the om symbol. If you’ve ever been to a yoga studio, you’ve most likely seen t-shirts featuring this symbol. It resembles the number three, with a hook sprouting from its rear and a dot and a slash above.

So, what exactly does Om mean?

Without getting too esoteric or off track, most yoga instructors close class with om (before Namaste) to indicate that class is over.

It might also be the sound of the cosmos condensed into a single syllable (or three if you subscribe to the idea that it incorporates the sounds of ah oh hm).

Om is claimed to be able to move mountains. So it’s understandable if you’d prefer to use a symbol instead. ​

The sign itself is divided into five segments. First, the waking state, which you and I are most familiar with, is represented by the tail of the three-like symbol. The one where we eat, sleep, wake up the kids, and zone out in front of the TV.

The hook protruding from the backside of the three shapes represents the dream state. It not only refers to the time when we are all practically sleeping but also represents our hopes and dreams.

The uppermost curve of the three shapes represents the unconscious state, or the state in which we are so deeply asleep that we do not even dream. The slash over the three shapes represents an illusion. It is also known as Maya.

This prevents us from fulfilling our deepest objectives (sometimes nirvana). The top dot depicts the perfect state of nirvana.

This is the point at which we are in complete harmony with the world around us, and it is for this reason that we meditate or do yoga in the first place. ​

Namaste as a hand gesture

Place your palms together at the heart charka, close your eyes, and bend your head to perform the hand gesture. You can also accomplish it by clasping your hands in front of your third eye, bending your head, and then bringing your hands down to your heart.

This is frequently seen and heard at the start and end of yoga classes. Anjali Mudra is the name given to this motion in yoga. This mudra (or seal) is performed by connecting the palms and tips of the fingers, which are energy centers in the body. These locations are brain nerve circuits that connect to the upper body. When you bring your hands together in the center, you connect your brain’s right and left hemispheres. This is the yogic unification process. Everything is one in yoga.

Each finger represents a different quality. The three classic attributes of nature are represented by the middle, ring, and little fingers (the Three Gunas). Sattva is represented by the middle finger (purity, wisdom, and true understanding). Rajas is represented by the ring finger (activity and movement). Tamas is represented by the little finger (laziness or dullness). The individual soul is represented by the index finger, while the ultimate soul is represented by the thumb. The yogi is expected to move beyond these phases, from ignorance to wisdom.

The Namaste salutation is central to the yogic practice of perceiving the Divine in all of creation.

The Namaste symbol in yoga

According to an article in Yoga Journal written by Aadil Palkhivala, an expert on Chakras, placing the hands in prayer at the heart chakra increases the flow of Divine love, while closing the eyes and bowing the head surrenders the mind to the Divine heart.

Many teachers will close the class with Namaste even if you take online yoga lessons. Even if you’re practicing alone and bow to say Namaste, you’re still sending that vibration out into the world and taking a minute to realize the divine being within yourself, which is something we often forget to do.

Learning about yogic symbols is an excellent way to approach self-study and inspire deeper studies of yoga’s beliefs and principles.

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