Last season, I brought yoga to an entire football team – all 50+ of them - knees tweaked, backs tight, minds worn - each one trashed by the previous day’s game - which, more often than not, was a humbling defeat. After sweating through sixty minutes of down dogs and up dogs, planks and side planks, dolphins and pigeons, I wasn’t going to ask them to process another piece of information. That is, I wasn’t going to explain what ‘Namaste’ meant. Or demand that they repeat it back to me. I just asked them all to rest there for a few moments, and notice the ‘effects’ of the yoga practice...
And as I sat there, in that unlit gym, looking at the sea of athletes, stretched out on their backs, eyes closed, in the closing moments of relaxation, I could hear their coach stepping toward me and I knew that he had a few words for his team. He now stood beside me, waiting for us to finish. Quickly.
After a breath or two, I bowed my head and said to them all, "Namaste."
When I lifted my head, I watched them all, slowly rise, eyes blinking awake.
Then the coached yelled, “SAY, NAMASTE!!”
They all shot up, alert, and screamed, "NAMASTE!"
The next week the coach, who had practiced yoga himself, came up to me, and said, “I guess you don’t have to yell Namaste, huh?”
The coach was absolutely right.
Namaste roughly means, "I bow to you." In sports, it’s the pre-game and post-game handshake. The more sincere you are with this greeting, the more this intention will extend far beyond the game at hand.