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     In these days of acknowledging and being sensitive to the diversity of peoples and their cultures, I am reconsidering the use of “Namaste" at the end of my yoga classes. In the yoga community it is very common to end of class by placing palms together in front of your chest and bowing your head down as an acknowledgement to yourself and others while saying, “Namaste.” Mainly because I have been made aware that it is more culturally appropriate as a greeting and not as a departing that I will no longer use it at the end of class. I am wondering whether to use it at all as a non-East Indian.  Can someone not from the same cultural background become an adoptee of the culture? I believe that this possible if done with the genuine desire to create a deeper understanding of the culture and not a from a desire for appropriation and domination.  I have a deep sense of connection to yoga that draws me to the culture of its origin.  For me being in this connection is to honor it.


     I often use Sanskrit words because I like the idea of staying as close to the roots of yoga and I want to be respectful to maintain the integrity of the meaning.  Many of the early yoga texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali were translated from Sanskrit to English. Namaste (pronouned (nu-MUH-sthe) is an old Sanskrit word with the same root as “Namaha” meaning “to bow”.  “Te” means “you”. Literally, namaste means “bow to you.” It is a term to convey reverence, particularly to elders, and respect to the sacred. In my yoga class I wish to use it to honor the sacred in all of us.  It is accompanied with a gesture of bending the head down to prayer hands acknowledging humility.  It is one of the few salutations that I know to offer deep inter-relational respect (and for that matter self-respect). In theses days of such acrimony we could use an infusion of respect to cool the fires.


     Interestingly, the etymology of “good-bye” according to the Merriam Webster dictionary*  is a contraction of “God be with ye.” **  “Adios” is literally translated to English as “to God.”  Somehow, we have lost  the meaning behind these words to render them impotent.  Apparently, words that once acknowledged a larger presence beyond our small self-identity are lost in the rancor and push to preserve me and mine. 


     My use of “Namaste” to conclude class was to strip away for at least a moment our shields of identity and recognize this greater source that lives within each of us as peace. But ,in the meantime I will be closing with different words to honor “Namaste’s” proper use.  I, myself, am curious with what I will come up with for tonight’s class. It could simply be a revival of  “Good-bye.”



** It took many decades to come my own relationship to the term "God". I invite you to substitute this word with something more suitable to you (Inner guide, Higher power, Higher Self,  Source, Creator...) as it can be a loaded word depending on how it has been used in your life experience.


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