There are some rituals connected to yoga classes which add to the spirituality of the practice and this separates hatha yoga from other exercise systems. One of these practices is namaste.
You may have wondered why, at the beginning and end of a yoga class, a teacher presses their hands together in a prayer position, with palms and fingers touching and pointing upwards, thumbs close to their chest directly over their heart, and bow slightly? This hand position is called añjali mudrā. This gesture is widely used throughout India, Nepal, and parts of Asia. Namaste is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, friend or stranger. It expresses politeness, courtesy, honour, and hospitality from one person to the other.
People practicing yoga in the West, have taken this ritual not so much as a welcoming gesture, but also as a ritual at the end of a class, to express the gratitude they feel to their teacher for their effort in presenting the class—a way to connect themselves with honour and respect to their teacher, and their teacher to them—reaffirming the understanding that there is a Divine spark within each of us. ‘Nama’ means to bow, or to adore, and ‘te’ means to you. Therefore, namaste literally means “I bow to you”.
A ritual is any action we perform that has meaning beyond its appearance. The rituals of yoga assist with Self-transcendence to affirm that this is our life, and we are responsible for our results. The rituals assist to keep us on our daily spiritual journey, reinforcing our beliefs in higher purpose, fuelling enthusiasm and passion to realise our true nature—that we are more than our physical bodies. (See my next blog on a classic yoga ritual called neti-neti.)
In February 2016, I will be running a one-off comprehensive Samyama Yoga Teacher Training course. This 12-month course will give you an in-depth understanding of yoga and open up your world to true transformation. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work closely with me and become a qualified Samyama yoga teacher, as I will not be offering this course again. If you’d like more information or to express your interest, please contact us.