Nama-what?! What Namaste REALLY Means (Namaste 101)

You’ve probably heard it spoken at the end of a Yoga class – as part of the closing words from the teacher or as students say goodbye to each other. May you’ve thought about using the word yourself, but you aren’t 100% sure what you are saying.

When I first started practicing Yoga and the teacher said it at the end of every class, I’d stay silent. My mind would race + I’d wonder if I was being rude or if I should say it out of courtesy … or maybe it was a word that invoked some crazy God-like being that I didn’t want to mess with (hey, I’m a worrier – my mind comes with with crazy stuff!).

What are we talking about?

The word Namaste.

Namaste 101 @

Let’s start off with the great news: saying Namaste doesn’t invoke any God-like being + it is not a word of worship – hooray! (stay tuned for a more in-depth post about Yoga + religion very soon)

Similar to “Aloha” in the Hawaiian language, Namaste can be used both in place of “Hello” + “Goodbye”. Also like Aloha, Namaste doesn’t have a direct English translation … and it means much much more than just Hello or Goodbye.

Often spoken while closing your eyes, bowing your head, + with the palms of your hands together (placed at your heart or at your forehead), Namaste loosely translates as “I bow to you” … but that is just the beginning.

Namaste is more than a greeting – saying it creates an energetic connection.
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Here are a few more in-depth translations for Namaste:

The Spirit within me honors and respects the Spirit within you. [“Spirit” can also be replaced with “Heart” or “Soul”]

The Light in me sees the Light in you.

I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of trust, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.

The Divine light in me honors the Divine light in you.

Depending on your religious beliefs, the last translation may give you pause. In Yogic philosophy, it’s believed that we all contain a bit of Divine energy (often seen as our Soul). That’s not to say that we are elevating humans up to a God-like level – we’re still flawed humans (in all the best ways, of course!). By offering up the physical gesture + spoken word of Namaste, you are greeting the pure, unadulterated, infallible goodness inside that person + acknowledging that we are all connected in a way that can only be felt by our Soul.

The physical gesture of Namaste also has a deeper meaning. Bowing slightly with your eyes closed + your hands together is a symbol of great respect, friendship, love, and gracious humility.

Now that you have a greater understanding of all that is Namaste, I invite you to pause the next time you exchange a Namaste with someone else – whether that be your Yoga teacher, a fellow student, or a friend. Don’t just hear the word + offer up the gesture – be truly present in that moment. Feel how your energy changes + allow a moment of silence to offer that other person the respect and love they truly deserve, for we are all fabulously flawed humans on our own unique journey.

Does this mean that you must return your teacher’s Namaste at the end of your next Yoga class? No, of course not. If anything about saying Namaste makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. On that note, I’d also invite you to take some time to explore why saying Namaste makes you uncomfortable + instead of living from a place of misunderstanding or fear, delve even deeper into the subject with some extra research.

For more information on the “energetic exchange” taking place during Namaste, please click here + check out the wonderful visualization and in-depth explanation based on Yogic philosophy.



What’s your FAVORITE description / explanation of Namaste?

COMMENT below, share your thoughts, + join the conversation!

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5 comments… add one
  • Why do so many people insist on making this word so complicated? You have offered various interpretations, not a translation.

    The word simply means “I bow to you.” all the religious stuff about divinity, spirit, etc. has been superimposed over the years, and promoted by various yoga organizations.

    Please check the Wikipedia entry for a complete examination of the term:

    • I’m so grateful for your perspective, Leslie. I’m 100% with you on the simple translation! Personally, I’ve noticed that keeping the explanation simple like that usually leaves people puzzled (minus most Yoga teachers or those who’ve studied Yoga in-depth).

      I think the additional, more in-depth, interpretations of Namaste add more insight into why “bowing” to another person means far more than just saying Hello or Goodbye. I’m definitely interested in how “all the religious stuff about divinity, spirit, etc. has been superimposed over the years, and promoted by various yoga organizations” – looking forward to reading more into that!

      (Side note: I did use that Wikipedia entry as a reference while I wrote this post – a great example of the awesomeness of simplicity.) 🙂

  • That’s a really clear and concise explanation! I personally always say ” the light in me honours the light in you, Namaste” Great read, thanks Victoria!

    • Thank you, Sandra – I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post! “The light in me honours the light in you” is a very pleasant way to express Namaste, and I bet that explanation brings a smile to all your students 🙂


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