Namaste: What does it mean?

You’ve probably seen the very funny video from “College Humor” showing what it might be like if Gandhi were to take a contemporary yoga class.  The hilarious (and highly-accurate) skit shows his steadily-growing frustration with teacher and fellow students, until he finally loses all composure and departs with a (very non-Yogic) expletive.  The unruffled students all lovingly respond with “Namaste,” at which point Gandhi yells back: “You don’t even know what that means…!”

This ending, in addition to being incredibly funny, is also highly relevant.  The fact is, most students of yoga don’t fully understand the term and tend to use it in highly-Westernized way – one which actually goes against the true meaning of the expression.  For these reasons, in today’s article at “Akshi Teachings” we’re going to clarify what namaste really means, so you can be confident that you are using this important expression in the correct way.

Etymology & Traditional Usage

To begin, as I’m sure you know, the term namaste is an ancient and integral part of Indian culture – in fact, it is one of five formal greetings that can be traced all the way back to the Vedas.  It is a profound and deeply meaningful way of showing both respect and humility, particularly when combined, as it normally would be, with a bow and with the gesture of anjali mudra (palms together at the chest).  These qualities of both respect and humbleness are cornerstones of Yoga philosophy and Indian culture as a whole, and must be fully understood if the expression is to hold any true meaning.

These principles of reverence and transcendence of ego are embodied in the etymology of the term.  The word namaste (or the synonymous namaskar or namaskaram) comes from roots nama, which means: “I prostrate myself” and the, which means: “to you.”  In the West, we often hear namaste translated as: “I salute the Divine in you,” but you’ll notice this is very different on a couple of levels.  First, we are adding the word “Divine,” implying that there may be other parts that we are not saluting.  Second, and far more important, by using the word “salute” we radically soften the concept.  To salute someone conveys respect, but it obviously does not convey the equally important elements of self-censure or self-abnegation inherent in the act of prostration.

This is an understandable alteration, in so far as we in the West tend to resist supplication or bowing, thinking of them as a form of groveling or self-effacement.  In fact, we typically denigrate cultures that include obeisance, accusing them of “bowing before their idols.”  As is often the case, these traditions actually have an understanding which goes far deeper than our limited Western assumptions, and our (highly-mistaken) interpretation of them is a sign of our lack of awareness.  As a result, when we alter a phrase like “Namaste” in order to meet our presumptions, we strip it of both its meaning and its power.  To understand fully, let’s look at this a little more closely.

Why Humility Matters

To properly understand the symbolism of bowing, it’s important to realize that, for numerous cultures across the globe, it represents not a belittling of the self, but rather an acknowledgment the limitations and inferiority of the ego.  When we bow, we are saying not only to others but equally importantly to ourselves: “I realize that the parts of me with which I normally identify, and of which I am typically proud, are minor compared to the Divine….”

You can see that this is an important reversal of how we normally think of ourselves.  Normally, we are very attached to ego, constantly celebrating some parts of ourselves while seeking to minimize or hide those aspects of ourselves of which we are embarrassed.  The Yogis, and again the founders of numerous other spiritual traditions, realized that this perspective not only tends to distort our vision of ourselves, but also prevents us from truly seeing and connecting with the people around us.  In simplest terms, when we interact with others, we tend to do so through ego, focusing on the best in ourselves and the worst in them, which is hardly an approach that fosters healthy communication or connection.

Coming back to bowing, when we prostrate ourselves to someone, we are actively and expressly reversing this process.  We acknowledge the fact that our baggage and pride keep us from truly connecting with others, and we take a moment to relinquish them.  When we say “Namaste” to someone, we are letting go of our attachment to ego and sense of self, and we are honoring him or her exactly as he or she is – including both the divine and the human parts – instead of seeing and thinking of him or her through the lens of ego.

Etymology & Symbolism Revisited

This inherent humility in the expression namaste is emphasized, again, by the etymology.  The root nama (once more, “to bow or prostrate”), is composed of the roots na, which means “not,” and ma, which means “mine/me.”  In this way, when we bow – whether to a person, or to a symbol such as the Buddha or the Cross – we are acknowledging how the limitations of the ego or “small self” keep us from connecting with others or with the Divine, and we are (at least temporarily) letting go of that identity so that we can truly see and honor others as they are.

This humility inherent in namaste is, of course, amplified when we consider the bow with which it is usually accompanied, and also the symbolism of bringing the hands together at the chest (anjali mudra).  In India, this gesture is understood as an abbreviated form of the full act, which is to bow to the ground, touch the feet of the other person, and then touch the top of one’s head This act is meant to symbolize the idea: “The lowest part of you is superior to the highest part of me” – again, an ego-emptying gesture it is hard for many in the West to fully comprehend or except, in spite of the fact that it parallels one of the more powerful symbolic acts of the New Testament, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

While our ego-based culture might balk at this gesture, it is clearly an elegant and powerful example of letting go of self-absorption and truly acknowledging and embracing another without the intervening veil of pride and vanity.  When combined with the literal and metaphorical meaning of the word “Namaste,” you can see how this gesture becomes even more significant, both for the person who is expressing it and the person to whom it is expressed.  Ultimately, “Namaste” is a gesture which both conveys and fosters a healthier attitude toward ourselves and the people around us.

The “Americanized” Understanding & Where It Goes Wrong…

At this point, it should be clear why the altered usages found here in the West falls quite short of the true meaning.  For example, when we say (or think): “The Divine in me salutes the Divine in you,” we are adding implications that are absent from – and in many respects contradictory to – the original, while also omitting other key aspects of the ancient expression.

As mentioned before, when we change “bow” to “salute,” we maintain the idea of respecting others, but we completely lose the element of humility, the crucial element of consciously putting our pride in its proper place.  This is a great example of the way in which our egos can distort our practices in order to maintain their place of power.

Second, as discussed earlier, when we alter “you” to “the divine in you,” we undo the element of deference, sliding the implications from unreserved respect to something closer to: “I might have trouble with parts of you, but I still respect the holy within you.”  This not only undoes much of the idea of accepting and embracing others as they are, it is also clearly another way that our egos strive to maintain their supremacy and control.

Finally and most important, when we begin with the opening qualifier: “The divine in me,” we are adding a form of self-aggrandizement not only present in the original but antithetical to the entire spirit of the expression.  Instead of humbling ourselves and acknowledging or limitation, we are actually bolstering our sense of pride by shifting our focus to the very best part of us.  In this way, we actually transform an expression that is meant to be an emptying of ego into yet another form of self-validation.

Clearly, when we combine (again, whether in word or in intent) these three “Westernized” elements, we miss the entire spirit and purpose of the expression.  Granted, when we say “Namaste” to someone, he or she usually replies in kind, but to presume this and “compress” it into our gesture is yet another example of the very egotism we are trying to overcome.  Simply put, if we are so defensive about our own self-worth as to feel a need to add that clause, we are clearly not ready to even understand the expression, let alone use it, and would be better off using a different greeting.

In Conclusion…

In conclusion, when we use the word “Namaste,” we need to understand that an integral part of the term is a sincere effort to empty the ego and to embrace the other person in his or her entirety.  Without that intention, we are not truly comprehending the term – or for that matter, one of the more essential truths of the Yogic path as a whole.

As always, we hope you have found this clarification helpful, and remember: if there happens to be an aspect of the Yogic path about which you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to let us know, either by way of a comment on this article or message – always delighted to hear what you would find of value.  Until our next article, as ever, wishing you the best in “Living Yoga….”



Taken from

Namaste: What does it mean?
Rate this post

A Quote for All Yoga Learners

Far from everyone thinks of teaching yoga.
Of these, not everyone will embody.
Of these, not everyone will have the opportunity.
Of these, not everyone can learn.
Of these, not everyone will teach.
And from them, not everyone will teach yoga in essence, not in form.
Someone has circumstances, some people think that he is not ready yet.
But in fact, these are all obstacles …
Which are taken away from the goal chosen sometime very, very long ago

A Quote for All Yoga Learners
Rate this post

The Story of Two Yogi’s

A person who does anything that he does to at most perfection, without being involved in its materialistic aspects and benefits is called a Yogi. However, since it is very difficult for a person to attain such a state, principled ways like vaanaprastham, sanyaasam have been suggested, to train a person to be detached from the materialistic world. The following story shows the importance in maintaining the central idea of vairaagyam ( In vairaagyam all karma is done but without expecting anything in return, without being involved in the materialistic aspects of karma.).

Once upon a time, there was a sanyaasi. He used to visit all the kingdoms and used to preach the people “for attaining moksham one needs to give away everything he owns. He should not have any vyamoham or desire on anything. He should not think of the next minute. He should not store anything for future. He should not tell who he is to anyone and should do dhyaanam with peace and no desire. Then he can achieve moksham”. The preachings of the sanyaasi were all very good, however, were very difficult for people to understand. One day Magadha King was inspired by the teachings of the sanyaasi. He gave away his kingdom and went to the forest for daiva-dhyaanam. In the same manner, Kaambhoja King was also inspired and went to the forest for daiva-dhyaanam. He also had given away everything he had.


Both the kings met each other in the forests, but they did not tell to each other that they were kings. They both used to go for bhiksha for their food. According to the rules, they used to eat the food that day itself without storing it for future. One day, they got only ganji (rice starch or rice soup). Kambhoja King commented to Magadha King that it would be better if there was some salt for the taste. Then the Magadha King told that he had some. The Kambhoja King questioned him “where did u get the salt from?”. The Magadha King replied that he had picked small amount of it from the vindu bhojanam to which he was called. He had taken some with him in case he needed in the journey. Then the Kaambhoja King told Magadha King that he has given his whole empire but was unable to keep up the rule that they should not store anything for future. The Magadha King replied that Kambhoja King who also left his kingdom with ease was not able to control his taste. Both were shocked realizing that they broke the rules.

They then realized the true meaning in the teachings of the sanyaasi and returned to their duties as kings and ruled with love, peace and harmony. But because of the learning from the forest, they were never involved in the bhogas of a king and were totally detached. They got the unattainable moksham in the end.


Moral of the Story:-There is no need to go to the forest and to do the daiva-dhyaanam for moksham. One can achieve it while doing all his duties but being a viraagi. In words of Krishna, “He who does his duty without expecting the fruit of action is sanyasi and yogi both, and not the one who has simply renounced the fire or given up all activity.”

References :- This story is taken from ” Moral Stories – A Tribute to Great Bharatiya Samskruti “.

The Story of Two Yogi’s
Rate this post

Guide for Travellers to India

Guide for Travellers to IndiaRate this post

Guide for Travellers to India
Rate this post

Things to do in Rishikesh for Cool Getaway Fun, Adventure and Thrill

Things to do in Rishikesh for Cool Getaway Fun, Adventure and Thrill

Where heavenly abodes spray the rays of love, and nature spreads its mystical tentacles through the Himalayas, it is Rishikesh, in India. Situated towards the North of India, in Uttarakhand, it is a land of God and for adventure seekers for its religiosity fervor, thrilling activities and beauty making it a most preferred choice for the million tourists and pilgrims.

In Rishikesh the glistening river Ganga flings an exciting charm, the chants from the temples touch the soul, the scenic backdrop refreshes the senses and adventure raise the nerves. There is everything for everybody.

Let us here make you know about few marvels that make Rishikesh so lucrative.

River Rafting: Rafting in the river Ganga is both thrilling and fun. Except for the months between October to June, and monsoon, all other months are best to challenge your spirit over the river. However, it is better to do the rafting in weekdays as the crowd is less and you will get more attention. River rafting has 13 rapids and stretches to choose. The stretches are ranked on the scale of 1 to 5 depending on the movement of water over the underlying rocks, river volume, and rock size. And with the interesting names of rapids like 3 Blind Mice, Sweet Sixteen, Black Money, Roller Coaster, Back to sender and Cross Fire makes the experience of river rafting even more exciting.

Night Camping: The effect of Rishikesh gets more intoxicating with the pleasure of night camping amidst the natural divine lands when the moonlit rays spread across the green terrains. You can enjoy the camping with family, friends, and colleagues bringing the memories alive. Besides spending night under the stars, camping has for you river rafting, body surfing, cliff jumping, bonfire including options to play games besides meals and snacks. A best get away far from the maddening crowd, isn’t it!

Yoga: Rishikesh is a yoga capital of the world, making it a most preferred choice for the yoga lovers. There are many yoga Schools, institutes, and ashrams especially for teaching yoga and generating awareness about health through yoga in Rishikesh. Just imagine learning yoga amidst the Himalayan ranges or sounds of chants and the rhythmic Ganga river. Thousands of yoga aspirants from across the globe come to Rishikesh only to learn yoga. International yoga festival which is held annually is an added attraction. It is a weeklong festival wherein yoga lovers’ gets a chance to grab the ample benefits of yoga under the guidance of highly learned yoga teachers.

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple: It is an ancient and a sacred temple situated around 20 km from Rishikesh. It is located on a hill at the height of 1330 mt. above the Swargashram and near the Nar Narayan mountain ranges. It is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot, Vishnukoot, and in the place where the rivers, Pankaja and Madhumati confluences. The complex is surrounded by dense forests making it a best scenic treat. And, the 12 km stretch between the Swarg Ashram and Neelkanth makes a wonderful trek.

The temple is beautifully constructed adorned with ancient architectural designs and beautiful surroundings. It also has a natural spring where devotees take holy bath before entering the temple. The sanctum santorum houses a Shiva Lingam, the idol of the presiding deity. Devotees offer coconut, flowers, milk, honey, fruits and water at the shrine and receives ‘Parshad’, the holy gift from God, in form of ‘vibhuti’ (ashes), ‘chandan’ (sandalwood) and other holy things.

The Beatles Ashram (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi): If you are interested to see the place where Beatles, a famous band group of the 1960s had learned transcendental meditation, then come to Swargashram where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram now known as the Beatles Ashram is located. It is best to take a road that starts from Ram Jhula. You will find the iron gate of the ashram at the end of this very road. Though the ashram is closed now by the government of India, but its old buildings is narrating the story of Beatles journey of transformation and learning experience. Officially no one is allowed to enter the complex yet enthusiastic tourist’s do unofficially visit it and offer money as a token of gratitude and appreciation to the watchman of ashram. Beatles was the most popular band of 1960’s who had come to the Maharishi Mahesh yogi’s ashram to learn the transcendental meditation. Their visit brought Rishikesh into limelight and made it a world famous tourist and yoga destination.

Sivananda Ashram: Sivananda Ashram was started by Swami Sivananda in early 1930’s and since then had been providing intense knowledge of yoga to the people through its organization, Divine Life Society. The Society was formed on the principles of purity, nobility, integrity and magnanimity in the year 1936. Ashram has different batches for men and women, morning for men and evening for women.

The Divine Life Society spreads the knowledge of yoga and spirituality through the regular publication of pamphlets, books, and magazines which give the knowledge of the different aspects of Yoga and Vedanta, universal religion and philosophy. Swami Sivananda promoted the idea that to become a member of the ashram, an aspirant yogi has to join the first three principles of the Yamas (moral principles as mentioned in Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali). The ashram is located near Ram Jhula.

Ganga Aarti at Parmarth Niketan: As the sun sets thousands of people throng at Parmarth Niketan Ashram near river Ganga to witness the famous Ganga Aarti. It is a divine light ceremony which is accompanied by the chanting of mantras, songs, prayer and rituals. In this ceremony, oil lamps are offered to mother Ganga. Witness Ganga Aarti is a very soothing and heartwarming, and it is a time when we break ourselves from the stresses and attain divine light in our life.

Parmarth Niketan Ashram was formed in 1942 by Pujya Swami Shukdevanandji Maharaj (1901–1965). Now the ashram has more than 1000 rooms in a clean, pure and sacred environment including beautiful gardens. In the ashram, people do yoga, preferably Vinyasa Yoga, Hatha yoga and yoga Nidra, universal prayers and meditation and listen to the Satsang and lecture programs. Besides natural cure and Ayurvedic treatment is also provided. Ashram also has 14 feet Shiva statue and the divine tree of heaven Kalpavriksha which was planted by Vijaypal Baghel of Himalaya Vahini.

Vashisht Gufa: It is an ancient cave located towards the middle of a grove of Gular (Ficus) trees and slopes towards sacred river Ganga. Sage Vashishtawho was one among the seven great sages of India (Saptrishis) and a teacher of Lord Rama is said to have meditated here for many years, making it one of the holiest places among Hindus. In 1930 Sri Swami Purushottamananda Ji is said to have visited the cave and established the ashram near it, and now the cave is being managed by the trust of Sri Swami Purushottamanandaj jiashram. The cave is 60 feet deep and is naturally formed having Shiva Lingam inclined vertically towards its opening. To reach the cave, climb 200 steps, which becomes quite tiresome but at the same time mysterious and adventurous.

Ram Jhula: It is an iron suspension bridge over the river Ganga built with a span of 750 feet (230 m) connecting Sivananda ashram with Swargashram. It is bigger than Lakshman Jhula. Only a pedestrian bridge, it also provides panoramic view of river Ganga and Rishikesh city which throngs with temples. The bridge is located 3km towards the North East of Rishikesh. Built in the year 1986 it became one of the most iconic landmarks of Rishikesh.

Lakshman Jhula: It is an iron suspension bridge over the river Ganga and is located 5 km from the town of Rishikesh. The bridge was built by U.P.P.W.D. during 1927–1929 in place of the old bridge of 284 feet span which was washed away by the floods in 1924. The bridge was opened to traffic on April 11, 1930.The bridge connects the two villages; Tapovan in Tehri Garhwal district to Jonk in Pauri Garhwal district. It was believed that Lakshmana, brother of Lord Rama had crossed the river on jute ropes in the very place where this bridge is located now. The bridge spans 450 feet. No toll or tax is ever realized for crossing it.

Patna Waterfall: Patna Waterfall is 7 km from Lakshman Jhula on the Neelkanth Temple road. The waterfall is named after the small village where it is located and is accessible only with a 1.5 km tough trek. Though h water is less but the beauty of the place is enough to attract the tourists towards it. And to add to it there are some limestone caves near the falls, and the drops falling from the stones is a wonderful treat to the eyes.

These are few but amazing things to do in Rishikesh, which can make your vacations worthy, and believe you won’t get back without getting intoxicated by the religiosity and beauty of this place.

There is small video which can tell you what you will find in Rishikesh:-

Things to do in Rishikesh for Cool Getaway Fun, Adventure and Thrill
Rate this post

The Teacher & Student Mantra


 सह नाववतु  सह नौ भुनक्तु  सह वीर्यं करवावहै 

तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै 

 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः 

Om Saha Navavatu | Saha Nau Bhunaktu |

Saha Vīryam Karavāvahai |
Tejasvi Nāvadhītam-Astu Mā Vidvišāvahai |
Om Śāntih Śāntih Śāntih ||


Om- supreme God; Saha- together; Nau- both/all

Avatu- may he protect; Saha- together; Nau- both/all

Bhunaktu- be nourished/energized; Saha- together

Vīryam- energy

Karavāvahai- work(karva-hand,avahai-bring in to use)

Tejasvi- having great energy; Nau- both/all

Vadhitam- intellect/study; Astu- so be it; Mā– not be

Vidviša– animosity; Avahai- bring/have; Śāntih- Peace


Let us together be protected and let us together be nourished by God’s blessings. Let us together join our mental forces in strength for the benefit of humanity. Let our efforts at learning be luminous and filled with joy, and endowed with the force of purpose. Let us never be poisoned with the seeds of hatred for anyone. Let there be peace and serenity in all the three universes.

The Teacher & Student Mantra
Rate this post

Omkaar Mantra

ॐकारं बिंदुसंयुक्तं नित्यं ध्यायंति योगिनः 

कामदं मोक्षदं चैव ॐकाराय नमो नमः 

Omkaaram Bindu-Samyuktam Nityam Dhyaayanti Yoginah |

Kaamadam Mokssadam Caiva Omkaaraaya Namo Namah


Om, which is united with the Source,
On which the Yogis ever dwell,
Which grants desires and liberation,
I salute the Omkaram.

Omkaar Mantra
Rate this post

Ganesh Mantra (obstacle remover)

वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सूर्यकोटि समप्रभ 

निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा 



Vakratunda Mahākāya Sūryakoti Samaprabha;

Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarvakāryešu Sarvadā.


Vakratunda- curved trunk

Mahākāya- huge form

Sūrya- sun

Koti- billion

Sama- equal

Prabha- splendor (Brilliance)

Nirvighnam- no obstacles

Kurume- give me

Deva- divine

Sarva- all

Kāryešu- endeavor (aim)

Sarvadā- always

Meaning – O Lord Ganesha, of Curved Trunk, Large Body, and with the Brilliance of a Million Suns, Please Make All my Works Free of Obstacles, Always.


Ganesh Mantra (obstacle remover)
Rate this post