Namaste has been used as a respectful greeting & farewell between the Hindus of South Asia and Southeast Asia for thousands of years. It is accompanied by Anjali Mudra – the hands held in prayer in front of the chest – but in these regions, the meaning of the gesture is understood and therefore is normally performed without words. This gesture is an especially deep form of respect and implies a connecting of hearts and minds in order to bring two spirits together. It is translated best as ‘I respectfully bow to you.’ When we gently press the palms together, it is believed to harmonize the left and right side of the brain, thus demonstrating that we are offering oneself fully.
When used between a teacher and his student, it represents a surrendering of the ego to allow for respect, knowledge and gratitude to flow between two people. The teacher is also offering up gratitude to her teachers before her, so passing the flow of connectivity from soul to soul. Ideally it is to be done both at the beginning and end of practice, but is often done mainly at the end as the mind is more still and the energy in the room more peaceful.
The accompaniment of the greeting Namaste with the hand mudra held at the heart chakra also represents the Hindu belief that there is a divine in all of us. We can alternatively perform this mudra by bringing the hands first to the third eye, then to the heart space, and it is always accompanied by a bow. This helps our minds to surrender to the Divine in our hearts. It is also often translated as ‘the Divine in me greets the Divine in you’ or ‘the spirit in me greets the spirit in you.’