We were talking in class today about some common yoga terminology, words we use in yoga and what they mean.
What does "namaste" mean?
This is a traditional greeting. It's often done with the hands at the heart in Anjali Mudra (a prayer like position), sometimes referred to as pranamasana, and a slight bow of the head. The physicalty isn't necessary, though. Sometimes you might just say, "namaste". You could also do the physicality without saying the actual words and it would still mean the same thing. I often touch my heart when I see a student and often they will do the same in return. Sort of the short form version of this greeting.
What you are saying when you say "namaste", or greet someone with your hands in Anjali Mudra and a bow of the head is that the pure consciousness part of me, the part that is beyond the mind and ego, recognizes the pure consciousness part of you. The heart is said to be the seat of pure consciousness and according to classical yoga philosophy the pure consciousness within each of us is the same.
Saying namaste, is a moment where we acknowledge that any differences between us come from the mind and the ego.
Sometimes you'll hear people describe "namaste" as; the light in me recognizes the light in you; or, my soul recognizes your soul. Just different ways of saying the same thing.