Even people who are not familiar with the actual meaning of Namaste will at least understand that it’s a greeting. The way it’s done facing a person with your hands pressed together makes it clear that the person is acknowledging them, but for many people that’s all they know about what the Namaste saying and gesture mean. Some may wonder if it is a greeting done as you’re meeting someone or when you are leaving them, as in is Namaste hello or is Namaste goodbye? You might also wonder if it has a different meaning when you make the gesture towards someone who is older than you.
While Namaste can be considered as a greeting, the truth of the meaning is that it is more of acknowledgment. To make the gesture and say the word ‘namaste’ means ‘I bow to you’ if we are to translate it quite literally. But is bowing a greeting, or is it more of showing of respect and reverence? In Sanskrit the word Namaste means to bring about the essence of wellness and understand the true nature of reality.
So it can be understood that Namaste is actually more of a blessing than a greeting – by saying this to someone and making the Anjali Mudra – the name for the prayer positions of the hands during Namaste – you are expressing your wish that they have that same wellness and enlightened understanding of reality. Is Namaste hello? It’s not, but as part of greeting someone you could also choose to be acknowledging them and expressing your wish for them. Is Namaste goodbye? Again, no but you could also be bowing to people when you’re leaving and expressing good wishes for them.
What about Yoga?
Some people will tell you that snakes do yoga. That’s not true, although in a sense snakes are doing yoga all the time if you think about it. A yogi is a person who conducts the yoga practice and guides participants through it, and if you have a reptilian yogi that leads your yoga practices then you really should try to vlog about it. If the yogi is also bilingual, even better. It is common for the yogi to close every yoga practice by saying ‘namaste’ and that is probably the first thing a Western person will think of when they hear the word namaste.
In this way you might be able to understand Namaste as goodbye, because if the practice is coming to an end and everyone will be leaving the studio it might makes sense to look at it that way. But again the significance of the term Namaste is so much bigger than just its connection to yoga. Yoga is based in the bigger picture of spiritual-physical wellness, but the idea behind saying Namaste is much more existential rather than related to an activity or wellness pursuit. The same goes for Namaste as hello. It’s fine for it to be extended as a greeting, but there’s significantly more meaning to it than that.
Sarpasana is the snake pose in yoga, and talking about snakes and yoga or yoga-practicing snakes is much more engaging than a discussion of is Namaste hello or goodbye. There is actually a type of yoga that involves the use of snakes, and quite often these snakes are huge pythons!
More Blessing than Greeting
Saying ‘namaste’ is more of a blessing than a greeting, and if the yoga practice you just concluded with ‘namaste’ included a snake pose then you will have done well by your abdominal organs. The Sarpasana has nothing to do with is Namaste hello or is Namaste goodbye, but it massage the abdominal organs and is especially good for your kidneys. It also makes your spine more flexible, and that’s something that is going to be beneficial no matter what age you are.
To get back to the philosophy of Namaste, it represents the idea that all are one, and beneath the outer trappings of appearance and possessions all humans are existentially the same. It is the suggestion of you having the same understanding that every person, thought, feeling and experience is a perfect expression of the one divine awareness. To say Namaste is also to express that you’re honoring the highest, truest, most authentic part of the person and also your wish that they don’t have limitations preventing them from reaching that enlightenment.
Is Namaste hello? No, it’s not and Namaste isn’t goodbye either. There are some elements of being a greeting to it, but it is really more about acknowledging the other person, honoring them and in some ways wishing the best for them.