“Let your hands join in prayer and head bow in devotion, Let your lips speak of gratitude and mind be in submission.”
What is the gesture that strikes you when we speak of “praying”? What is the most natural thing you do when you go to any holy place?
Some of you may say, “closing our eyes” or “joining our hands” or “bowing our heads” etc. All of these denote the posture for prayer, practiced in any order.
However, joining our hands is most impactful for the person in action as well as the recipient. Therefore, it is used in different connotations too.
Joining hands together is known as “Namaste” in Hindi and Nepali, as “Namaskar” in Marathi as “Namaskara and Namaskaragalu” in Kannada, “Kumpiṭu” in Tamil, “Dandamu, Dandaalu, Namaskaralu and Pranamamu” in Telugu, “Nomoshkar and Pronam” in Bengali and “Nomoskar” in Assamese. The gesture is widely used throughout the Indian subcontinent, parts of Asia and beyond, where people of Southeast Asian origins have migrated.
The etymology of the word “Namaste” is “nama” meaning to ‘bow or adore’ and “te” meaning ‘you’ in Sanskrit.
Namaste is usually mentioned with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. It is a respectful form of greeting, deity worship, acknowledging or welcoming, expressing gratitude and bidding goodbyes.
A related word – “namazlik” meaning ‘prayer rug’, comes from the Turkish word “namaz” meaning ‘worship ritual, prayer’ and goes back to Middle Persian to “namahya” meaning ‘honor, pay homage to’ which is a derivative of “nam” meaning ‘bend’, which is exactly interconnected with Sanskrit word “namati” meaning ‘bow’, thereby connecting the ancient gesture and the ancient tradition of prayer rugs through the ancient roots of distantly related languages.
If we go into the deeper spiritual exploration of the word and gesture, it means that “I bow to the divine in you”. It is said that the Heart chakra gets activated with this gesture. It depicts humility, courtesy and politeness. It is often said that our right hand signifies our higher level divine nature and the left hand represents the lower level worldly nature. This gesture speaks volumes without having the need to utter a word. If combined with a smile, it can melt any heart. This expression of unison aims at building relationships through meeting of spirits. It brings a unique feeling of warmth without touch. The only contact is with the eyes. The language of “Namaste” can be understood by strangers too. This gesticulation treats everyone equal irrespective of their age, relation, gender, social class, skin color etc.
In Yoga, Namaste is used frequently while performing yoga asanas, meditation and mudras. The teacher is greeted at the beginning of the practice with a “Namaste”. The student also offers thanks to the yoga teacher at the end of the practice with “Namaste”. It is a gesture to send a message of peace to the universe in the hope of receiving a positive message back. It is like a baton to take up the responsibility of first imbibing into yourself what was taught on the mat and then passing it by sharing with others off the mat. In order to make students understand, the yoga guru might use English words for asanas but the word “Namaste” is taught as it is to honor the ancient tradition. It is perceived as the declaration of obedience and offering.
This expression is also known as “Anjali” mudra which aids meditation. It means a salutation seal. Practicing Anjali mudra promotes flexibility in the wrists and arm joints. It provides mental benefits like improvement of focus, mindfulness, relieves stress, calms the mind, and connects both the hemispheres of the brain helping usage of both the left and right side leading to inner awareness.
So, in future do not fall into any kind of ego trap by avoiding this humble expression. Also, when you use the word “Namaste” ensure that you are spreading positivity meaningfully and not saying it for namesake.
Come join me at Calida’s yoga sessions for beginners in Thane West at my home through a one-on-one, only for females format for Rs.500/- for the first month.
“As I greet you with a ‘Namaste’, I see the hope of a new beginning of a relationship which is free from judgments and expectations. I see the light that shall never fade; I see the peace that binds us.”