When a person joins the fingers and the palms of both hands they set into motion various physical, emotional and mental stimulation that forms a circuit to bring about well-being in these bodies.
- The hands are one of the Karmendriyas, organ of action. When joined together they stimulate, through the nerves, certain areas of the motor cortex in the brain fostering mental balance and relaxed concentration. Hands are also sensory organs via the medium of the skin, an Indriya. When we touch anything with our hands a circuit is formed to relay information to the brain.
- In this case, when the hands are joined together, a circuit is formed between the Ida and the Pingala the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, bringing a balance between them – the left and right brain hemispheres by neutralizing the two polarities.
- The aim being to achieve the state of the perfectly balanced Ardhnarishwar, which depicts an unbiased, perfected state of mind.
- In the simple gesture of Namaste the thumbs gently press into the soft spot in the sternum, a reflex point for the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve as we know carries information between the brain/mind and important organs of the body. Its stimulation helps restore equilibrium and balance. The folding of the hands invokes love and bowing down of the head induces respect for the other.
- Of course doing the Namaste mindlessly a few times as remedy for prevention of contamination will not induce deeper effects. Only conscious and continuous practice, as taught to children by parents and elders in India, over year’s manifests in a peaceful, harmonious demeanor.
This asan, which is the first asan of the Surya Namaskar also does just this. It brings balance in the practitioner by influencing the left and right brain. It induces equilibrium in the practitioner and a restful humility while opening the Anahad chakra to express compassion.
Namaste to God, Guru and Friend
- Since India is a country of ancient wisdom and every gesture is steeped in inner meaning, where the hand posture of Namaste/Namaskar/Pranam is placed denotes the status of the person in front.
- When one greets the image of the Divine or ones Satguru the joined hands are placed on top of the head which is the pinnacle of the body temple, the Sahasrara; when one greets ones Guru/teacher the hands are placed at the mid-point between the eyebrows, the area of the Agnya Chakra, where knowledge and information is passed through – the Gurudwar; when one greets friends it is at the Anahad Chakra the heart center of love and compassion.
- It is also part of the 16 upacharas used inside temples or any place of formal Puja (worship). Namaste in the context of deity worship, scholars conclude, has the same function as in greeting a guest or anyone else. It expresses politeness, courtesy, honor, and hospitality from one person to the other.
Difference between “Namaskar” and “Pranama”
Pranama (Sanskrit ‘Pra’ and ‘Anama’) is a respectful salutation among Hindus. It literally means “bowing forward” in reverence for a deity or an elder.
Namaskar is one of the six types of Pranamas:
- Ashtanga (Ashta=eight; Anga=body parts): Touching the ground with knees, belly, chest, hands, elbows, chin, nose, and temple.
- Shastanga (Shashta=six; Anga=body parts): Touching the ground with toes, knees, hands, chin, nose, and temple.
- Panchanga (Pancha=five; Anga=body parts): Touching the ground with knees, chest, chin, temple, and forehead.
- Dandavat (Dand=stick): Bowing the forehead down and touching the ground.
- Abhinandana (Congratulations to you): Bending forward with folded hands touching the chest.
- Namaskar (Bowing to you). The same as doing a Namaste with folded hands and touching the forehead.
Anjali mudra has the same meaning as the Sanskrit greeting Namaste and can be performed while saying Namaste or Pranam, or in place of vocalizing the word.
Anjali mudra is performed by pressing the palms of the hands together. The fingers are together with fingertips pointing up. The hands are pressed together firmly and evenly.
The joining together of the palms is said to provide connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and represents unification. This yoking is symbolic of the practitioner’s connection with the divine in all things. Hence, Anjali mudra honors both the self and the other.
Anjali mudra is performed as part of a physical yoga practice with an aim to achieving several benefits. It is a “centering pose” which, according to practitioners, helps to alleviate mental stress and anxiety and is therefore used to assist the practitioner in achieving focus and coming into a meditative state.
The physical execution of the pose helps to promote flexibility in the hands, wrists, fingers and arms.