The meaning of the mantra Om Namah Shivaay can be understood in two main ways:
Firstly, as a salutation to Lord Shiva, and second, a way of seeking his blessings.
"Om", the monosyllable mantra is the primordial sound of the Universe, the bridge to our highest awareness. It is considered the source of all consciousness.
"Namah" is a phrase of humble salutation, meaning "I bow to you".
"Shivaay" is the invocation of Lord Shiva, who is known as the Guardian of the Truth and the Dispeller of All Evil.
The second way to understand this mantra is through each syllable within it.
Excluding Om, the sounds in this five-syllable mantra represent and connect to the five basic elements that exist within the human being and in the Universe around him.
Here, "Na" represents earth, the element which corresponds to our well-being and endurance.
"Mah" represents water, the element that symbolizes all our beliefs, emotions, and desires
"Shi" represents fire, the element of strength, willpower, and deeds.
"Va" represents air, the element that is connected with our ability to love and care, and
"Ya" represents space, which signifies our ability to express.
Thus, through this mantra, we activate, vitalize, and balance all these elements within and around us.