Prayer always has a great importance arising from any individual religious background and spiritual practice which all leads to healing health and wellness. Religious traditions across the world display beliefs in healing through prayer.
Of course, there are different types of prayers, various iterations of supplication, thanksgiving, praise, hymn, prostration …. the list goes on. Most major religions involve prayer in some form or other like Hinduism – they perform prayer early morning and evening reciting the versus and prostration in front of God at home or by visiting the temple, Christians – pray once a day reading the bible and bowing down on knees, Islam – performs prayer 5 times a day by prostrating facing Qibla and reciting versus from Quran, Jewish – they do Shabbat which runs between Friday evening and Saturday evenings, Buddhism – they do Uposatha, a kind of meditation. This results in health and healing through one or more of several mechanism.
We will discuss in detail about the health, mental and social benefits of prayer in Islam. It is known as Salah (often written as salat) is performed five times a day which includes – before sunrise, afternoon, late afternoon, evening and night with a set of fixed series of postures. It is a spiritual and physical act in where, muscular system of human body became active without muscle fatigue and induces serenity on body and soul. The prayer starts with,
® Niyyah (Good Intention)
® Wudu (Abulation with water)
® Rakah’s (Series of postures)
Niyyah is an intention in one’s heart to do an act for the sake of God. As a part of preparation for prayer a person must have the right intention to pray. One’s niyyah or intention is of the utmost importance among the requirements of an act of ritual prayer. However, niyyah is spoken from heart, it does not have to be uttered and must be commenced before praying.
Wudu is washing of various parts of the body before Islamic prayers. It is an obligation before each Islamic prayer and starts with removing all the toxins from body in the form of faeces and urine and then followed by performing abulation with water for three times and cleaning the body. For Wudu, it involves cleaning of hands, mouth (gargling), breathed through nose gently, face from top of the forehead to chin, right arm including the elbow and hand, left arm, wet hand passed from beginning of hairline over the head, back and inside of ears, right foot up to the ankle followed by the left foot. It can be seen in the image below;
Health benefits of Wudu:
· Washing hands with water helps prevent germs entering into the body.
· Actions performed with hands and fingertips while performing wudu stimulates biological active spot similar to reflex therapy.
· Relaxes the nervous system and relieves stress and anxiety.
· Gargling reduces viral respiratory infections, bad breath and prevents teeth from necrosis.
· Cleaning nose removes dust, allergens and contaminated matter which prevents infection to stomach.
· Washing face help reduces acne and secretions that come out from sweat glands and activates energy centres in face including pineal gland.
· Ear cleaning helps removal of excess wax from the ear and the outer part from any dust or bacteria.
· Foot cleaning helps prevent dirt and fungus. It also stimulates the pressure points at bottom of toes and this reflexology helps in curing pain like back pain, arthritis, back pain. Good for diabetic people for relieving pain.
Raka’s comprises of 7-9 postures. Each position involves the movement of different parts of the human body in ways that some muscles contract isometrically (same length) and some contract in approximation or isotonically (same tension). It enhances ﬂexibility and general muscular ﬁtness. This also results in moderate physical exercise particularly to the large muscle group and encourage health and wellbeing.
Let’s have a look for the importance of each posture and its impact on the body.
Posture 1: Takbir and Qayyam is the starting position where they raise their hands behind the ear lobe, bending their elbow and bring them down one after another by holding left wrist with right hand on abdomen which is followed by reciting versus from Quran. This position is hold for 3-5 seconds followed by rising again and holding 40-60 seconds. This position also resembles the position from yoga, “Tadasana”.
· While doing this posture, there is even weight distribution through both the feet which ease stress on lower body and spine bringing it in to a neutral position.
· When hands are raised over earlobes keeping the elbows bent, pectoralis muscle are gently stretched expanding the chest wall.
· During this movement, there is clenching of right hand which increases blood flow in increased in left cortex.
· While reciting versus from Quran, the sound vibrations of long vowels stimulate heart, thyroid, pineal gland, pituitary, adrenal glands and lungs by purifying and uplifting them all.
· It also ensures proper blood flow in lower portion of body and strengthens leg muscles.
Posture 2: Ruku (Bowing) is done by leaning forward, especially at lumber joint supported by the palms placed on the knees, with fingers spaced out. After reciting some verses in this position, the worshipper returns to his previous state which is standing position. This position is like “Trikonasana” in Yoga. After a few seconds, the worshipper gradually reverts to the previous state until vertebral column is vertical. This position is hold for about 10-12 seconds.
· There is forward flexion of lumbar spine and flexion at hip joint whereas, knee joint bears load in extension which is good for bone health and prevents osteoporosis.
· Stretches the para spinal muscles of lumbar spine, hamstrings, and calves (gastrocnemius & soleus) muscles
· It strengthens the back, extends the spine and increases the flexibility of hips and hamstrings.
· It relieves the stiffness at spine, neck, and back and help to improves posture as well as balance and co-ordination.
· It is good for the lower vertebral column, trunk stability and provides a gentle distraction at vertebras which relieves pain caused by disc bulging and nerve compression.
· The complex physical movements of the ritual can reduce lower-back pain if performed regularly and properly.
· ‘ruku’ position could be used as therapy as it helped to relax the spinal canal and reduced the risk of pressure on the spinal nerve.
· This also exerts abdominal pressure thereby eases constipation and peristaltic movements.
· Also, while performing this, the kidney experiences a sort of massage thus helpful to kidney problems.
Posture 3: Sajadah (prostration) in which the individual goes down from standing position on his/her knees and rests his/her hands and forehead on the ground in prostration. This position involves having the forehead, nose, both hands, knees and all toes touching the ground together. This position is like “Shashtaangasana” in Yoga. This position is hold for 10-12 seconds.
Health benefits of Sajadah (Prostration):
· It strengthens the muscles of thigh and legs with the stretching of the lower back muscles.
· It keeps the spine firm and erect.
· Helps in proper functioning of brain, lungs, body muscles, joints and entire vertebral column.
· Maintains smooth blood flow to the frontal cortex of brain.
· Stimulates the pituitary gland as well as the pineal gland.
· Detoxification of liver and stimulate peristaltic action of large intestine and helps in digestion.
· Assist digestion process by forcing the content of stomach downwards.
· This position also pumps the blood flow upwards and help in varicose veins and reduce high blood pressure.
· Bowing down head also relieves sinusitis and promotes drainage. Helps in relieving bronchial diseases as well.
· Increased venous return also helps to prevent hernia.
Posture 4: Quood (sitting) in which the person sits on his foot, the hands are placed on the thighs with spine erect. Sitting is an important step in Prayer. After standing, bowing and prostration, sitting is done on the left foot along the ground with the right foot upright. After reciting some verses from Quran in this position, the Prayer is concluded by reciting greetings of salaam by looking over one's right and then left side. This posture is more like “virasana” in Yoga. The position is hold for 10-30 seconds reciting the versus from Quran.
Health benefits of Quood:
· The blood pumped upwards during sajdah returns back to normal in this position.
· This position eliminates indigestion and constipation and beneficial in cases of peptic ulcers.
· Ankle and foot muscles are stretched which reduces the chances of plantar fasciitis and myalgia
· There is activation of core muscles which strengthens the back.
· Removes toxin from the body and moves the muscle of colon and improves digestion.
· Stretches the muscle of anterior thigh and prevents from knee pain.
Posture 5: Salam in which there is neck movements in sitting where the person sits in Quood position and turns the head left and right 3 times reciting the versus from Quran. This is the end of prayer where the person asks for peace to the left and right.
Health Benefits of Salam:
· Turning the head from right and left massages the neck muscles and increase the flexibility of neck.
· It also increases the flexibility of upper vertebrae.
· Relieves headaches and migraines.
· Strengthens the muscle of neck and prevents from further degenerative changes.
Overall Health Outcomes of performing Namaz:
® When performed in morning the secretion of cortisone is increased which gives energy to stay active throughout the day.
® Patients with advanced degenerative arthritis of knee are preserved because of traditional sitting positioning mentioned.
® Improves dynamic balance.
® During evening time, there is secretion of melatonin which relaxes the body and helps in sound sleep.
® Performing this routine prevents aging.
Mental Benefits of Namaz:
® It decreases the tension, increases focus and stability between the mind and body.
® Gives a sense of perspective and peace.
® Cools body down from all the tension and stress.
® Timings of prayer brings punctuality in one’s life.
Social Benefits of Namaz:
® Reinforces the bond of brotherhood, righteousness, piety and spreads love.
® Strengthens ties of brotherhood between elderly-young, rich-poor and strong-weak.
® Shows unity and meeting them allows to learn to lookout for his brothers needs and problems.
® Develops social integration and compassion.
Islamic prayer co-relation with Yoga
Yoga consists of a number of “asanas” or body positions, which one retains for a desired length of time while either reciting “mantras” or breathing in a rhythmic manner. Each (Namaz) positions-corresponding yoga position and the positions together activate all seven “chakras” (energy fields) in the body-as per yoga practices. Each of the chakras correlates to major nerve ganglia that branch forth from the spinal column. Both involve some sort of physical activity, Asanas in Yoga and Arkan in Namaz. The postures involve same physical benefits from stretching and strengthening of muscles. The root meaning of ‘Yoga’ in Sanskrit and ‘Prayer’ in Arabic is the same, i.e., “to connect”. The word ‘Namaskar’ used in Yoga and the word used for Islamic s, i.e., ‘Namaz’, have the same meaning, i.e., “to bow down”. Namaz postures are similar to yogic postures and therefore Namaz, while being performed as a religious obligation, can simultaneously give the Namaz all the benefits of yoga. Prayer and Yoga can be regarded often as a type of stretching and flexibility exercise. Namaz and yoga both generates inner energy, vitality and flexibility.