Image of hello in different languages

Hello, I’m Siobhan. I’m a language teacher, yoga teacher and nerd.

Here are some ways in which to say hello around the world:

Spanish – Hola

German – Hallo

French – Bonjour

Italian – Ciao

Japanese – Konnichiwa

Mandarin – Ni hao

Hindi – Namaste

So why do yoga teachers say “Namaste” at the end of class? I always found that to be quite odd, but I did it anyway because I thought it’s what you were supposed to do. That in itself is weird, because I’m not usually one for following the crowd, I tend to question things. Imagine if I started ending my yoga classes with “hola” (I have been tempted to end with “gracias, adios” but then again, that wouldn’t be too weird for me because I’m used to that in my day job!).

I started to question my use of Namaste as a closure to a yoga class a while back after listening to Yoga is Dead podcast. So, I quit ‘Namaste’ a while back because it just doesn’t make sense! Then, with everything that has been going on in the media recently regarding the Black Lives Matter movements, I have been looking deeper into cultural appropriation. The yoga world is steeped in cultural appropriation; there is so much to learn. Some say that you shouldn’t even use the Sanskrit names for postures, but I’m a linguist and, for me, that side of the yoga world also fascinates me. So much so, that I have just completed a Sanskrit introduction course. I thought German was a tough language to learn but as mind-boggling as it was I loved the course! So, forgive me, but for now, I’m still going to use some Sanskrit (plus, I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I don’t actually know the English word for the posture).

I digress. Back to Namaste. Another point that I would like to make is this: how can one word be translated as a whole entire paragraph in English. Us westerners are WEIRD.

I’m not an expert by any means, I’m still learning, understanding and improving. If this is you too, then here are some recommendations:

If you’re a language nerd, this article is pretty interesting:

If you want to gain insight into why Namaste and the like is culturally insensitive then look here