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What Does Namaste Mean? & Why Do We Say It at the End of Practice?

Namaste. A word so simple yet imbued with profound significance. If you've ever attended a yoga class, you’ve likely heard this term used at the end of the practice. But what does Namaste mean, and why do we say it? Let's delve into the depths of this greeting, its origins, interpretations, and the debate surrounding its use in Western yoga practices.

The Meaning of Namaste

Namaste (pronounced nah-mah-stay) is a traditional Hindu greeting originating from Sanskrit. It combines two words: "namaḥ" meaning "bow," "obeisance," or "adoration," and "te," meaning "to you." Together, Namaste translates to "I bow to you."

In the context of yoga and meditation, Namaste is more than just a salutation. It's a gesture of mutual respect and gratitude. The act of bringing the palms together at the heart center and bowing the head is an acknowledgment of the divine spark within each of us. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text, "The one who sees all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, has no hatred by virtue of that realization" (Bhagavad Gita 6.29). This verse embodies the essence of Namaste, recognizing the unity and interconnectedness of all beings.

Different Interpretations

The meaning of Namaste can vary based on context and interpretation. Here are a few perspectives:

1. Spiritual Acknowledgment:

Namaste is a recognition of the soul in one person by the soul in another. This interpretation emphasises the interconnectedness and divinity of all individuals.

2. Respect and Reverence:

In Indian culture, Namaste is used to greet elders, teachers, and respected individuals, signifying deep respect and honour.

3. Gratitude and Humility:

In the yoga community, Namaste is often used to express gratitude for the shared practice and the learning experience.

Why Do We Say Namaste at the End of Practice?

At the end of a yoga session, saying Namaste serves multiple purposes. It acts as a seal for the practice, a way to express gratitude towards oneself, the teacher, and fellow practitioners. It symbolizes the acknowledgment of the collective energy generated during the practice and the spiritual connection formed within the space.

The Debate:

Should Western Yoga Practices Use Namaste?

The use of Namaste in Western yoga practices has sparked debate, with arguments for and against its inclusion.

Arguments For Using Namaste

1. Cultural Respect and Authenticity:

Many believe that incorporating Namaste preserves the authenticity of yoga, which has deep roots in Indian spirituality and culture. Using Namaste can be seen as a gesture of respect towards the origins of yoga.

2. Universal Values:

The values embodied by Namaste—respect, gratitude, and acknowledgment of the divine—are universal. These principles can enhance the spiritual and communal aspects of yoga practice.

3. Spiritual Connection:

For many practitioners, Namaste is a profound way to connect spiritually with the practice, the teacher, and fellow students, fostering a sense of unity and peace.

Arguments Against Using Namaste

1. Cultural Appropriation:

Critics argue that the use of Namaste in Western yoga can be seen as cultural appropriation, stripping the term of its deep cultural and spiritual significance. They contend that without a thorough understanding of its meaning, the term is reduced to a superficial ritual.

2. Misuse and Mispronunciation:

In some cases, Namaste is mispronounced or used inappropriately, further diluting its significance. This misuse can be perceived as disrespectful to the culture it originates from.

3. Lack of Context: Yoga in the West is often practiced as a physical exercise, devoid of its broader philosophical and spiritual context. Using Namaste in such settings can be incongruent with the original intent of the greeting.

Bridging the Gap: Finding Balance

Finding a balance between honoring tradition and adapting to modern practice is crucial. Here are a few suggestions:

Education and Awareness:

Teachers and practitioners can educate themselves about the origins and meanings of Namaste, ensuring its respectful and informed use.

Intentional Use:

Reflect on the intention behind using Namaste. If it enhances the spiritual and communal aspects of the practice, it can be a meaningful inclusion.

Alternative Expressions:

Consider using other forms of closing the practice that resonate with the group’s understanding and cultural context, while maintaining the spirit of gratitude and respect.


Namaste is a word rich in history, meaning, and spiritual significance. Whether or not it should be used in Western yoga practices is a nuanced discussion, requiring respect for cultural origins and thoughtful consideration of its context. At its core, Namaste reminds us of the shared light within all beings and the deep connections we form through the practice of yoga.

In my practice at Wild Wood Movement, I choose to use Namaste because I deeply understand and respect its meaning and heritage. I am committed to educating others about its profound significance, ensuring that it is not just a ritualistic gesture but a meaningful expression of our shared humanity. As a student of yoga philosophy, not just a yoga instructor, I strive to embody the principles that Namaste represents in my teaching and daily life.

Moreover, I am passionate about keeping the language of Sanskrit alive, recognizing its importance in preserving the cultural and spiritual richness of yoga. By thoughtfully incorporating Namaste into our practice, we honor the tradition and maintain a connection to the ancient wisdom that guides us.

As we bow and say Namaste, we acknowledge the divine spark in ourselves and others, embracing the unity and peace that yoga seeks to cultivate. Let this sacred greeting remind us of the deeper purpose of our practice and the universal values of respect, gratitude, and interconnectedness that it upholds.

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment your thoughts below 👇

Namaste 🙏

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