Hey Y’All, Namaste.
I waded into the wide, deep and ancient world of yoga with a desire to heal. Us humans, we’re a sloppy AF species. I am no exception. Up until recently, I ended all of my yoga classes with “Namaste” because that’s how I’d learned to finish a class, as many Western-trained yoga teachers do. It’s ubiquitous.
The meaning of Namaste is utterly beautiful, as are all of the Sanskrit words I’ve learned. I thought that by using it to close the container of the yoga practice, I was repeating a gesture of deep respect to the practice and to the Indigenous people of India who discovered, cultivated and shared it generously with the world.
But as Dr Maya Angelou reminded us, “When you know better, you do better.”
I recently attended Susanna Barkataki’s Namaste Master Class and came away with lots of helpful information, the nugget of which is:
Actually: Namaste is a respectful greeting. NOT a farewell. When we use words from other languages incorrectly, it’s at least rude, and at its worst, harmful. That’s not yoga.
There’s a lot more to say about all this. Susanna and others have done much more thinking and scholarship on it than I have, so I direct you to her Namaste Master Class (it’s FREE!) and to her excellent blog post (+ a PDF of more than 60 ways to end a yoga class that aren’t Namaste) about it.
I shared this with all of the teachers at All Y’All, and asked them to come up with their own non-cultural-appropriative alternatives. Since then, I have observed all of them create deeply authentic and original closings to their classes. A small step perhaps, but one that is squarely in the direction of #decolonizingyoga. We have a long road ahead with many errors to fix and healing to attend to. I’m glad you’re here with me.