Parent: My son really enjoyed the yoga class that you taught the other day when you were substituting. You know, we went to a yoga studio before and it was just too much religion.
Me: What do you mean?
Parent: Some of the things they said and all that incense.
Me: I don’t focus on the religion, we focus on mindfulness and moving our bodies.
Parent: What about the “Namaste”?
Me: It’s just a nice way to say thank you to each other at the end of class. It’s our special yoga word.
Then, I saw that a fellow kids’ yoga teacher had an issue with her school and the word “Namaste” being used, which got me to thinking about yoga, religion and Namaste.
I posed the question to several people of varying ages. What do you think of when you hear the word of Namaste? Is the word Namaste a religious word? Surprisingly, the people that were asked these questions did not feel that it was a religious word, or that yoga was a religious practice. Most did not even know what the word meant. The same people viewed yoga as mainly a form of exercise and meditation. Namaste was merely a word that was said in conjunction with yoga.
Namaste is the complete surrender or devotion to the divine spark in another when offered in greeting. Namaste recognizes that all beings are sacred and that, as an equal, the devotee may partake of the merit and the knowledge of the teacher. According to Niten Kumar, a Sanskrit translator and Vedic scholar, the sound of Namaste is the equivalent to a sacred chant, a mantra that aligns the speaker with the resonance of the universal harmony. In Kumar’s interpretation, the spoken and gestured (hands, palms together, at your chest) Namaste is a brief meditation, an opening between the spiritual and divine.
Another source said that Namaste is the word that simply evokes a sense of sharing a spiritual connection and creates a sense of feeling of oneness and balance; a way that all humans can connect.
The literal translation is “I bow to you.”
If you are not allowed to use the word “Namaste” in your class for whatever reason, here are a few alternatives:
- Have the children come up with their own endings to the class.
- Discuss with the children why it is important to thank people for doing nice things for them.
- As part of their OM-work have your students count how many times they said thank you to someone. Expand on this discussion further and ask them how it made them feel when they did something for someone and they were thanked.
- Discuss what Namaste means in kid-friendly terms. That could be as simple as, “This is how we say hello and good-bye to each other when we are practicing yoga. We thank our teacher by saying this word, Namaste.”
- Say “peace be with you” and they can learn to respond “And also with you”.
- Have a group thank you at the end of class.
- Say “Peace” to each other.
- Shake each other’s hands, give each other a hug. Spread the joy that you as a student have received from your teacher.
Whether we verbally say, “Namaste” in class, shouldn’t we expressing gratitude and respect? Whatever the word or gesture, make it a shared experience offering peaceful energy signifying the light and understanding that can only be found in the heart.
Peace, love and Namaste!