Posts tagged ‘namaste’

greeting the light within

Namaste.  I say it at the end of each of my yoga classes, and my students repeat it back to me.  I assume, as yogis, we all know what it means, and I rarely take the time to define it.

I am no Sanskrit scholar, but as I have learned it, namaste means: the light of the divine within me, honors the light of the divine within you.

It’s a lot for a little word, no?  Sanskrit is that way, with layers of meaning in one or two words.

Nama means I bow.  Te means to you.  I bow to you.  But it is not simply me, this body, bowing to you, your body.  It is my essence bowing to your essence–the highest in me recognizing and bowing to the highest in you.  This body holds that light, is the container that gives it hands to type and eyes to see and feet to tickle and throat to laugh, but this body does not define that light.

This week, after the terrible shootings in Connecticut, our newspaper printed photos of most of the victims.  The front page was full of smiling little faces of boys and girls, and their teachers.  My first thought was to hide this paper from my children, to read it when they were asleep, grieve privately over the faces of children not much older than my own.

But my second thought, seeing these beautiful faces, was to show them to my children.  They are–at two–far too young to hear or understand the story of these children.  So I opened the paper, and put it on the floor, and we admired the faces of the kids.  “That,” my son said, pointing to one boy’s notably carrot-red hair.  “Red hair,” I told him.  “That’s a boy with very red hair.”

“Eyeglasses,” my daughter said, noting one girl with glasses slid halfway down her nose.  “Yes,” I replied, “she is wearing eyeglasses.”

And so it went, throughout the day, we would pull out the paper, and look at the kids.  Hi kids, they said, over and over.  Hi kids.


December 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm 4 comments


Someone in Vermont has a license plate that reads AHIMSA.  I see it from time to time as I drive around.  I’m always jealous that I was not clever enough to have thought of this idea–what better place to remind people to be nonviolent than in our cars (surely I am not the only one who has cursed at the car in front of me for driving too slowly when I am running late on my way to yoga class!)?

Ahimsa, which is often translated as nonviolence, is one of the yamas, or ethical guidelines, of yoga.  Although they each have a strange-sounding Sanskrit name, they are all principles we’ve heard along the way: to practice gentleness, and truth; to not covet the things or talents of others; to remember that each breath is a blessing.

The yamas are meant to govern our conduct with the world–the rules of the sandbox so that we can all get along with each other–but I’ve found it helpful to also think about how they apply as I interact with myself.

Am I gentle and nonviolent with my body when I come to my yoga practice, when I choose what and how much to eat, and to drink (ahmisa)?  Do I see my reflection in the mirror of truth, or do I allow it to be distorted by my own judgements, and expectations of what I “should” be (satya)?  Do I give myself credit where credit is due, stepping into the bright light of my own goodness (asteya)?  Do I pause to feel the satisfaction with who I am and what I have in life, instead of looking for what’s to come (aparigraha)?  Do I see the spark of the divine within myself, the light that shines out from my own heart–that piece of God within me (brahmacharya)?

In my classes, as in most yoga classes, we “Namaste” each other at the end of the practice.  This simple and beautiful word holds so much meaning–the light of the divine within me, recognizes and honors the light of the divine within you.

When we practice the yamas not only out in the world but also within our own selves, it is as if we are giving ourselves that greeting, Namaste.  I see myself as a spark of the divine.  I honor myself, in all of my grace, in all of my potential, in all of my perfection.


November 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm 2 comments

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