“Namaste” is a common greeting in Nepal, India, and other parts of South Asia. It is derived from the Sanskrit language and is a combination of two words, “namah” which means “bow,” and “te,” meaning “to you.”

In Nepal and generally, everywhere, the Namaste gesture is typically made by pressing the palms of the hands together and bowing the head as a sign of respect and recognition of the divine in the person being greeted.

The word can be translated to mean “I bow to you.” It is a gesture of respect and humbleness and is often used as a way to greet someone or show gratitude.

Where does Namaste Come From?

The term “namaste” is derived from Sanskrit, an ancient language of South Asia that is still widely employed in yoga and is mostly utilized by Hindu priests for religious rites. Namaste is a Sanskrit term that is still commonly used today to greet or gesture, usually to a senior or older. It is also commonly used in yoga programs.

Namaste is typically accompanied by a hand gesture that involves bringing the thumbs up to the sternum, closing one’s eyes, and bending one’s head. Another way to do it is to bow your head, put your palms together, and bring your thumbs between your eyebrows.

Global Recognition

Namaste has gained recognition and popularity beyond South Asia, becoming a symbol of peace, harmony, and mindfulness in global cultures, especially in yoga and wellness communities.

Namaste in Yoga

As cultural practices are borrowed and modified over time, they naturally alter. Namaste and its current usage in Western yoga are no exception.

In yoga, the phrase “Namaste” signifies acknowledging and honoring the divine essence that resides inside us. After class, the teacher will say “Namaste” as a sign of respect and gratitude for the students. Rather than using Namaste as a greeting, most students will repeat it to the teacher as a way of saying “thank you.”

Namaste has a deeper spiritual meaning in this context: “The divine in me honors the divine in you.” We try to establish a bond with each other by feeling a common love and appreciation, realizing that we are all equal and one.

What’s the Difference between Namaste and Namaskar?

When paying tribute to someone, namaste and namaskar are generally accepted as synonymous terms. When someone is highly esteemed, powerful, and spiritually significant, they are typically called namaskars. Think about how you are politely welcoming the Sun while you perform the Surya Namaskar.

Significance of Namaste in Different Religions

Significance of Namaste in Hinduism

In the Hindu faith, Namaste is commonly used as a formal greeting, similar to saying “hi” or “goodbye.” It is also employed when addressing elders or spiritual leaders to convey respect and humility. By recognizing the inherent divine spark in everyone, this gesture promotes a calm and non-violent mode of communication.

In Nepal, Namaste is deeply ingrained in both formal and informal contexts, as it symbolizes reverence, humility, and acknowledgment of the sacred essence within each individual.

Significance of Namaste in Buddhism

Namaste holds significance in Buddhism as well, representing respect and modesty. When greeting someone, Buddhists bring their hands together in a prayer-like position, pointing their fingers towards the person being greeted, and often accompany it with a slight bow. Buddhists also use Namaste as a way to express gratitude towards the Buddha and to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all beings on a spiritual level.

Significance of Namaste in Jainism

In Jainism, the phrase “Namaste” is used to express respect and humility towards others. Similar to the Buddhist greeting, Jains join their hands in a prayer-like gesture, pointing their fingers towards the person being greeted, and adding a slight bow. Jains also use the greeting “namaskar” to acknowledge the spiritual interconnectedness of all living things and emphasize the values of nonviolence and compassion in their daily lives.

Variations of Gestures in Namaste

Here are some variations of the Namaste gesture found around the world:

  • India and Nepal: In these countries, the traditional Namaste gesture involves pressing the palms together in front of the chest with fingers pointing upward, accompanied by a slight bow of the head. The placement of the hands can vary from chest level to forehead level, depending on cultural norms and personal preference.
  • Thailand: The Thai greeting, known as the “wai,” bears resemblance to Namaste. It involves pressing the palms together in a prayer-like gesture accompanied by a slight bow of the head. The height at which the hands are held can indicate the level of respect or formality.
  • Japan: In Japan, the gesture of bowing, known as “ojigi,” is commonly used as a sign of respect and greeting. While not identical to Namaste, it shares similarities in its expression of humility and acknowledgment of others.
  • Tibet and Bhutan: In Tibetan and Bhutanese culture, the gesture of greeting is known as “namaskar” and is similar to Namaste. It involves pressing the palms together in front of the chest, accompanied by a slight bow of the head.
  • Indonesia: The traditional Indonesian greeting, called the “salam,” involves placing the hands together in a prayer-like gesture similar to Namaste. However, the hands are often placed at chest level or higher, and the gesture may be accompanied by a slight bow or nod of the head.
  • Western Adaptations: In Western cultures, the Namaste gesture has been adopted in various contexts, particularly in yoga and mindfulness practices. While the basic form remains the same, individuals may modify the gesture based on personal preference or cultural influences.

Why Do We Offer Others Namaste?

In Hinduism, Namaste holds deep spiritual significance, rooted in the belief that every individual possesses a divine essence or spark, known as the Atman. The gesture of Namaste is a recognition of this divine presence within oneself and others. Here are some key insights into the spiritual context of Namaste:

  • Divine Essence within All Beings
  • Unity and Oneness
  • Namaskar to the Divine
  • Respect and Humility
  • Yogic and Meditative Practice
  • Cultural Expressions

Usage Namaste in Everyday Life 

Saying Namaste with genuine intention is an act of affirmation. Choosing to apply the spiritual principles learned in a class to your life outside of a yoga or meditation practice is an intentional decision. Namaste is a greeting that is similar to an agreement to treat one another with respect on an equal footing.

Christopher Wallis explains how this realization may change the way you live in The Recognition Sutras.

Everything you do becomes an act of reverence once you realize the genuine essence of existence. Living your regular life with complete awareness turns it into a meditation practice, an ideal kind of worship, and an offering to all living things as well as to existence itself. Tantra teaches that all activities are actually the divine investigating, reverencing, and adoring itself because there is only one in the universe.

In everyday life, Namaste transcends its role as a mere greeting and becomes a multifaceted gesture used to express various emotions and sentiments. Here’s how Namaste is commonly employed beyond just a simple hello.

  • Greeting
  • Farewell
  • Gratitude
  • Reverence
  • Cultural Etiquette
  • Mindful Practice


The gesture does not need to be made in the direction of another person. As a kind of self-meditation, you might say “namaste” to oneself. Sadhguru claims that “Namaskar brings harmony between two polarities within.” It eliminates any dualistic feeling inside.

It is also a powerful method for improving social interactions. He claims that you can practically immediately see improvements when you bring your palms together and focus your loving attention on the person or circumstance you are honoring.

It will take you three to five minutes to start harmonizing. Peace and Namaskar. Give yourself a loving Namaskar. As he says, “Namaskar yourself into union.”


  • Can “namaste” be used in a non-spiritual context?

Despite having spiritual overtones, the phrase “namaste” can also be used in secular or non-spiritual contexts. Similar to saying “hi” or “goodbye,” it can simply be used as a formal and respectable approach to welcome or part ways with someone.

  • Is it necessary to say “namaste” in a yoga class?

Although it is customary to say the word at the end of a yoga session, it is not required. The choice to utilize it or not is ultimately up to the individual, but it is a method to demonstrate respect and gratitude to the instructor and other pupils.

  • Is there a difference between saying “namaste” and “namaskar”?

Although “namaskar” is seen as a more formal or courteous style of greeting, the words “namaste” and “namaskar” are similar and frequently used interchangeably. It is used to express reverence and to see the divine in others.

  • Is Namaste hello or goodbye?

It is a common greeting, which is used both as a hello and a goodbye. So, you can use this when you meet or depart with someone.

  • What does “Namaste” mean literally?

As mentioned earlier, Namaste means “greetings to you.” Originally found in the Vedas as a salutation to divinity, the usage and meaning of namaste have evolved. Today, among Hindi speakers worldwide, namaste has become a simple greeting to say hello.

  • What are the three meanings of namaste?

Namaste carries three main meanings. First and foremost, it is an expression of appreciation and respect towards another person, entity, or deity. It can be used as a greeting when meeting someone or as a farewell when parting ways.

  • Is it acceptable to say namaste?

Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to say namaste. Many people find it a meaningful and beautiful word, as long as it is used with respect and understanding of its cultural significance. It is important to acknowledge the roots of this sacred expression and use it appropriately.

  • Is Namaste exclusively for Hindus?

No, namaste is not exclusively for Hindus. It is a non-contact form of greeting, offering a respectful and peaceful way to acknowledge others. Whether a person is Hindu or non-Hindu, it is perfectly acceptable for individuals from different cultures to use namaste as a form of salutation.