A greater level of understanding is always beneficial when the subject is related to spirituality. This is especially true when it’s something you’re taking an interest in of our own volition. Meaning you’re choosing to do that, and it is not required of you. There are all sorts of people who are enamored with yoga and similar practices that combine physicality and spirituality for better health these days, and as most enthusiasts will know it is common to bow you head as you say ‘namaste’ to conclude a yoga practice. In previous entries here we’ve gone over the meaning of Namaste and why it’s incorporated in this way, but what is behind the namaste bow?
The simple answer is that it is all about respect and reverence, and acknowledging that the person being bowed to has the same spirituality to their being that you do. The gesture is most often reciprocal – meaning the other person will acknowledge your spirituality in the same with their own namaste and bow. The line that is most often given with namaste, ‘I bow to the divine in you’ is a fairly good one to help people understand why it’s spoken and why you bow at the same time. Keep in mind that you won’t bow as deeply as some people do in East Asian countries where honorifics are a big part of the society.
The Namaste bow and the term Namaste itself have their roots in South Asian culture though, and originally begin in Sanskrit although most naturally absorbed into the Hindu religion and culture most prominently. But first and foremost to understand is that this is not a term that should be used too casually or superficially. Here in North America it’s very unlikely you’d be in any situation where you’d be doing that, but elsewhere in the word you will need to be mindful of that.
Pranama is Different
The Namaste bow is its own gesture, but there’s another one that is similar and shouldn’t be confused with the Namaste bow. These are pranamas, and the translation of it actually works out exactly to ‘in front of / bending’. The significance of meaning is greater for these types of bows, while the Namaste bow is used more of an everyday greeting when you feel you need to be respectful and reverent towards the person(s) in front of you. Is this why pranamas are not used in the context of yoga or pilates practices?
Likely, and it is important that people don’t appropriate culture when they may not be welcome to do so. To say Namaste and bow is acceptable within yoga and Pilates though, but if this describes your usage of it then it also can’t hurt to know the spiritual significance of it. You may even find that you start to use it more judiciously, or it may prompt you to become more interested in your own spirituality and the existentialism of the human race you belong too. It is true that great spirituality can be very beneficial for a person’s overall health. All of this is related to connection between mind and body.
Your Anjali Mudra
Unfamiliar with that term? Not to worry, nearly everyone on this side of the pond will be too. The Namaste bow is known an Anjali Mudra, and this is the proper cultural term for the bow where you start with a shallow bow and then have your hands pressed together and with palms touching and fingers pointing upwards. Now of course you don’t need to be super focused on your form if you only engage in a Namaste bow once or twice a week at the yoga studio, but if you’re interest in this subject goes deeper than that then you might want to put some focus there.
The next thing we’ll mention around the way you bow when saying Namaste is this; you may be able to find a Namaste bow gif that you can use for your social media or wherever else, but it is a better choice to have a genuine understanding of what Namaste means. That is especially true if you’re coming to use the gesture as part of your deeper journey into spirituality. This is something ever-greater numbers of people will want to consider given the not-so-appealing nature of the physical world we’re living in nowadays.
Offer a Namaste bow when you think it’s appropriate, but if it is not at the end of a yoga practice it’s important to be mindful of when and where you use it. Along with an understanding of who you’re of offering it to, and whether they’re understanding of it means you need to be more genuine with your Namaste, I bow to the divine in you.