The Secret of Namaste
Namaste: I honor, respect, recognize and bow to the light in you and me.
This sacred gesture, used in many yoga practices, meditations and prayers, holds a secret wisdom. When the mind and senses bow to the Heart Chakra, the union between body and soul is achieved. The key, however, is to go deep into the Heart Chakra where the soul glows its life-giving presence, bringing breath and heartbeat to your body.
The Heart Chakra
Why does one need to go deep into the Heart Chakra, and how does one achieve this process? The reason for going deep into the Heart Chakra is to guide the senses that are controlled by the mind and also control the mind, into the Heart.
When the senses are only aware of the life around your body, the senses cannot be fully aware of your soul in the Heart Chakra. The senses must be withdrawn; in Yoga this is called “Pratyahara.”
By withdrawing the senses, your mind’s awareness turns inward. To withdraw the senses and still be in the mind is not pratyahara.
True pratyahara is withdrawing the senses from the outer story of separateness, into the inner Truth of oneness that glows in your heart.
Essence of Oneness
The experience of oneness is held in the Heart Chakra, not the mind. The feeling that reveals you are in oneness is pure love. Love not based on the material world image, but the pure true love between body and soul, creation and creator.
When the mind and its minion senses are gathered together and guided inward, the gifts of the senses are now in a different reality. This reality is called oneness, innerworld, intuition, soul, spirit, Divine, union, source, etc. The more focused the mind is in its ability to gather the senses, the deeper purity and truth of the experience of oneness — love. When the senses finally enter the Heart Chakra, the senses become calmer and more in your control.
The secret to this whole process of pratyahara, and going into the Heart Chakra requires humility. Humility is when the mind and the personality it created through senses (known as ego) have reached a willingness to change. The aspiration to transform and discover a new perspective of oneself and life is also the feeling of humility.
So how does one achieve pratyahara, humility and a focused mind, in order to discover what is inside the Heart Chakra?
New Technique for Accessing the Heart Chakra
A very special technique came to me in my mid-20s when I had reached a direction in my life where I was humbled and willing to change. This humility came forth due to the death of my parents in an aviation crash when I was a teenager and my sister’s murder shortly thereafter, resulting in my many illnesses and losing my will to live.
With these techniques, by bowing into the heart, I discovered the purpose for life and found self-love. The process of this technique begins with a beautiful feeling such as love. The ability to feel this feeling build in us is the presence of the Soul.
Remember, light is the image of love.
Mental Centering™ Technique by Savitri
Centering Mental Energy (1 ½ minutes)
Sit erect with your eyes closed. With the middle finger of each hand touching the front of each armpit, trace a horizontal line to the center of your chest. With the middle finger of your right hand touching your skin, you will feel a sensitive area on your sternum. Massage gently for a few minutes. This is your Heart Chakra, the doorway to your soul. Imagine light glowing lovingly in the Heart Chakra.
- With your eyes closed, place your hands with your fingers together, slightly cupped, on the right and left sides of your head, facing your ears. Your hands should be approximately 3 inches away from your head.
- Exhaling, move your hands together in Namaste, not more than 1 inch away from your face, with the tips of your thumbs at the same level as your eyebrows.
- Inhale. On the next exhalation move your hands down slowly to your Heart Chakra. As you do this, imagine your mind following a straight line in the center of your body and offer your mind to your heart.
- Say inwardly, “I offer my mind and senses to my loving soul within.”
- Do this technique 3 or more times and breathe slowly and peacefully.
Increases the power of Namaste, intuition, self-love, respect, and conscience bringing calmness to the mind and body as they discover the soul’s presence.
Notice at the end of this technique the hands end up in Namaste. This is the exact energetics of what happens to us when we say Namaste or bring our hands in prayer. The mind withdraws its ego perception of another and bows inside the Heart Chakra to the true perception the Soul-Light holds.
The mind now is awakened to the love and light that is in your body; this always recognizes the love and light in anyone or anything.
The first level of enlightenment is to keep this connection consistent. Namaste is the energetics and action of self respect and respect for others. Respect is one of the keys to the teachings of yoga. This union of self-respect between mind, body and soul, and respect for others, is the feeling of love. And through this love the soul can shine freely through your body and to others.
Let the secret gift of Namaste bless your yoga journey on and off the mat. Namaste.
© Copyright 2015 by Savitri, all content, all rights reserved. Heartfull Meditation™ and technique trademarked by Savitri.
The Meaning of Namaste
About 12 years ago, I double-parked and ran into an Indian food restaurant located in a strip mall in my hometown. I’d had an incredibly long day at work and was craving comfort food and my sofa. When I blazed through the door, I was greeted by a man who stood about the height of my chin. He was the host, the cook, the waiter, and, as I quickly learned, he was also the owner.
He met my cyclone of an entry with a steady kind gaze, and then simply pressed his palms together at his heart, and with a slight reverent bow, said “Namaste.” I had heard the word before, of course, but that moment was different. In that second I felt as though I had just been handed the Nobel Peace Prize. Simply for being me.
I felt seen in a way I never had. Not even by my family or friends or anyone I’d ever dated.
That feeling was created by that single word and his authentic gesture. It transformed not only my day, but also my belief in the power we all have to influence one another with our words, actions and presence. My craving for chutney had somehow ignited my investigation into the history of Namaste.
The Meaning of Namaste
Namaste is a Sanskrit word comprised of the root words “namah” and “te”. The meaning of namah, as described by Wikipedia, means “bow” and “reverential salutation or adoration”. It also means “obeisance” – not a word you may be tossing around with your homies, which means “a movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy; a bow, curtsy, or other similar gesture”. The word “te” means “to you”. The “s” links the two words according to the grammatical rules in the language of Sanskrit, so that the sounds of the letters flow with one another. Hearing the resonance of these cohesive sounds shows how and why the language of Sanskrit is precisely aligned with the practice of yoga.
Do I Have to Bow When I Say Namaste?
Like a stiff new pair of jeans, beginning the practice of saying the word Namaste and/or holding your hands at prayer and bowing can feel really uncomfortable. For many born and raised in the western world, there is no cultural equivalent to the practice of bowing. This practice, “pranama” in Sanskrit, means “to bow” or according to Paramahansa Yogananda, “this salutation, with the hands in position of prayer, is expression of reverence to God or to one in whom the Divine is manifested. You may say Pranam or Namaste. This joining of hands symbolizes the meeting of two souls. Bowing down and joining hands symbolizes humility.”
Since Namaste literally means “bowing to you”, it’s a good idea to do just that. Otherwise, it’s as if you proclaim to really like someone while maintaining a poker face. Incorporating the action of bringing your hands to your heart, followed by a slight bow, authenticates the meaning of Namaste.
To Namaste or Not to Namaste
Beyond cultural bounds exists the universality of people greeting one another. Of course you can shake hands, hug, bow or extend a salutation in other ways. But a good Namaste goes a long way.
One of the things I’ve learned as a professional writer is: it’s not just the words we choose that matter, it’s how we use them and if we know what they mean that matters. Words have history, and every word we use carries it’s history with it. Namaste is often interchanged with Namaskar in parts of India and beyond. In ancient scriptures, such as the Taittiriya Upanishad, the practice of extending courtesy, honor and hospitality is expressed equally to guests and deities. It’s referred to as “Atithi Devo Bhav”, which translates to mean ‘the guest is god’. There are 16 forms of reverence used in “Pujas”, or ceremonies, in any place in which formal worship occurs. Namaste is one oform.
As a word and gesture, Namaste has a wide range of uses that can extend along the spectrum of meaning: Namaste or namaskar is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest or stranger. It is used with goodbyes as well. Namaste can be used to for both the recipient of a kind deed or favor, as well as by the one extending the giving. The use of Namaste is growing: it is widely used throughout India, Nepal, parts of Asia and beyond. It is often used in yoga studios and spiritual communities throughout the western world.
However, the word itself is incomplete without a connection to the person you are saluting. Eye contact and stopping to acknowledge and bow are equally important.
Namaste is about creating and honoring connection and exuding respect.
As Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee reflect in Yoga Talks: Why do we say Namaste, “Namaste is used as an expression of respect. The deepest part of me sees and honors the deepest part of you.” They go on to explain that it is a powerful word yet is also familial.
As the word Namaste travels West, it continues to morph into meaning many things to many people. Technically, can I say it to the guy who rotates my tires? The sweet lady who lets me go ahead of her to pay for my groceries? Of course. But it’s more commonly used in situations in which people share a similar view of spiritually or, as in the case with my quest for Chutney years ago, used by people steeped in traditions that teach seeing beyond the exterior to a person’s essence.
That said, I begin each and every yoga and Sanskrit class that I teach with Namaste.
Even when I’m teaching yoga on stand-up paddleboards in lakes, oceans and reservoirs. Regardless of the form of practice, I honor my teachers, and lineages of teaching by using the expression and bow of Namaste. But first I always take a breath. I’ve found for myself that a full conscious inhale and an equally conscious exhale helps to clear away any possible block to connect authentically with both the students present and what I’m about to teach.
How to Say Namaste
As both a teacher and student of Sanskrit for more than ten years, it’s my experience that, here in the U.S., Namaste makes the top ten list for Most Commonly Mispronounced Sanskrit Words.
It does not rhyme with Nescafe; Namaste is a three-syllable word. The emphasis is often incorrectly placed on the first syllable, and erroneously pronounced like ‘nom’. The correct pronunciation phonetically is nuh-mUH-st-hey with the emphasis on the second syllable. In Sanskrit, the ‘a’ sound is pronounced like the English ‘u’ or ‘uh’as in Muenster cheese. There’s a tiny pause, I call it a ‘prana pocket’ that exists just after the second “a” in Namaste, followed by “stay” which, in Sanskrit, sounds like you’re directing your dog to sit. The “t” in Sanskrit is created by placing your tongue in between your upper and lower front teeth, biting down slightly, then pulling your tongue straight towards the back of your throat.
It can feel strange, I know. Practicing that over and over, much like making the shape of Warrior 2 with our bodies, is like washing that new pair of jeans until they fit like you’ve worn them for a decade.
Your Own Private Namaste
One of my Sanskrit teachers gave me some of the best advice for getting comfortable with pronouncing and relating to the names of the postures (asanas) in Sanskrit: “you’ve got to date your asanas… in order to build familiarity, we need to spend time together. It’s no different with relating to the practice of yoga.” There’s no need to light candles and spread rose petals, although if that’s your jam, please go ahead. I’m simply suggesting that, rather than a drive through kind of connection; we spend some quality time with Namaste.
Five Ways to Embody Namaste
Choose Your Context
Try saying Namaste to people practicing next to you in a yoga class or to the cashier at the grocery store.
Look the Other Person in the Eye
In order to recognize the spark of divinity in someone, you must look.
Bring palms to touch at your heart.
Pronunciation phonetically is nuh-mUH-st-hey, with the emphasis on the second syllable.
It’s not bobbing your head and it’s not full prostration; keep your eyes up and see your gesture all the way through.
We participate in this ancient practice steeped in cultural history because it shows that we value each other, that you could literally turn someone’s day, week or life around in an instant. Exactly like that kind man in the Taste of India restaurant did so many years ago. He bowed to a part of me that I hadn’t yet recognized within my self. In order to see it in myself, I had to forge a relationship with Namaste. If you are going to use this powerful word, explore its meaning.