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What Om and Namaste Actually Mean

Yoga | Yoga for Beginners

"Om" and "namaste" are two phrases that we hear over and over again in the yoga community. But do you know exactly what they mean? These ancient Sanskrit words are both meaningful and sacred. The power behind these words may not be immediately recognized, but if you look deeper, you will see their inherent significance and deep energy:


Translation: 'Nama' means bow, 'as' means I, and 'te' means you.

Namaste literally translates as “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”

Namaste is a Sanskrit word, it is a greeting in India used when people meet. It is a gesture of love and respect. In India, they usually make the gesture by placing their hands together to symbolize the meaning without speaking. In the Western world, we usually make the gesture and verbalize the meaning by saying, “Namaste.”

Hand Gesture

The hand gesture can be done by placing your palms together at the heart charka, closing your eyes and bowing your head. It can also be done by placing your palms together in front of the third eye, bowing your head and then bringing your hands down to your heart.

You will often see and hear this at the beginning or end of yoga classes. In yoga, the gesture is known as Anjali Mudra. This mudra (or seal) is practiced by joining the palms and the tips of the fingers together, which are known as energy points in the body. These points are nerve circuits of the brain, which are linked to the upper body. As you bring your hands together at your center, you are literally connecting the right and left hemispheres of your brain. This is the yogic process of unification. In yoga, everything is one.

Each finger symbolizes different qualities. The middle finger, ring and little finger represent the three classic qualities of all of nature (the Three Gunas). The middle finger symbolizes sattva (purity, wisdom and true understanding). The ring finger symbolizes rajas (activity and movement). And the little finger represents tamas (laziness or dullness).  The index finger represents the individual soul and the thumb represents the ultimate soul. The yogi is supposed to transcend these states, progressing from ignorance to wisdom.

The Namaste salutation is at the essence of the yogic practice, seeing the Divine within all of creation.

OM  (Aum)

Om is a sacred sound, a spiritual icon and a mantra. It is a Sanskrit word that translates as “ Source” or “Supreme.” The sound vibration of the word is most important.

Meaning of OM

The “AWE” sound, represents the start of the universe, the “Ooo” sound represents the energy of the universe and the “Mmm” sound represents transformation.  These three syllables also represent the three stages of life: birth, life and death or waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.  The last syllable is the deep silence of the Infinite. The chant merges from the ‘M’ into the deep silence.

Feeling it.

As we say the sound OM or AUM, you should feel the vibrations through your body.

“AWE” –  You should feel it vibrate above your abdomen.

“Ooo” – You should feel it in your chest.

“Mmm” – You should feel it in your mind.

If you say these sounds slowly to speak the sound AUM, you will feel it rising from the bottom to the top as the vibrations activate your upper chakras. This should enhance a state of calm and wellbeing, relaxing your nervous system and preparing you for yoga or meditation.

AUM is the sound of the universe.

Everything in the universe is vibrating and the sound Om, vibrates at the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. AUM is the sound of the universe. When we chant it, we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and recognizing our connection to everything within the universe.

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