Who doesn’t know the spiritual significance of namaz? It is not only a form of prayer for Muslim believers, but also can be considered as a slow moderate exercise for all ages and conditions. However, its physical significance is often ignored. We hardly know or discuss what namaz does to our health and the significance of doing every posture of namaz correctly. We just blindly accept the fact that namaz is like a physical exercise. In this article, we will try to explore this fact scientifically.
Namaz requires the worshiper to act several distinct bodily postures in a repeated manner while reciting specific verses. Namaz, consisting of rakaats, is required to perform at least 5 times in a day. Each rakaat being a series of 7 postures, involves physical activities like standing, bowing, prostration and sitting gradually. These postures being very similar to yogic postures, give all the benefits of yoga. It is even a simplified version of yoga with little effort, short duration and more benefits. Each Muslim is under obligation to perform 119 postures per day, 3750 postures per month, 42840 postures per year! Moreover, timing of namazs are designed in such a way that abides by body clock and helps our health to the fullest.
Each posture of namaz leaves specific impact on the nervous system. It gives continuous gentle muscle contraction & relaxation with perfect harmony & balance, including flexibility without over-exhaustion. It exercises the major joints (specially the spinal column), massages the intestinal tract, transmits a reflex to the liver, stimulates endocrine and excretory system, regulates breath, enhances oxygen level and blood circulation amazingly.
Too much to process, right? Namaz does this huge to our body. Alright, these are proved by scientifically. Studies have proven that non-Muslim participants merely going through these physical movements of namaz showed remarkable improvements. A research carried out by Bio-Medical Engineering department of University Malaya shows that physical movements of namaz help reducing heart rate, backache (especially in pregnant women), strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and boosting blood circulation. Even it is proved to cure patients suffering from erectile dysfunction. It acts like a therapy which improves the muscular and cerebral functions of the geriatric, disabled and demented patients in a rehabilitation program. According to American Heart Association, when namaz is performed daily, it can have a long term health benefits by exerting autonomic effects such as electro dermal activity of the skin, rates of hemolysis of red blood cells. Dr. Ramadan from Kuwait University researched the energy cost of 24 Rakaat prayers. He concluded, it costs 80 calories a day for an 80 kg person.
Yet it is not quite clear how these few easy postures daily can bring such huge improvements to our physical health! It feels like magic, right? To understand it completely, we have to focus on each posture from the scientific point of view.
Before namaz, one have to perform ablution which involves washing the face, mouth, nostrils, ears, and arms. This has great health advantages, like preventing tooth decay, and reducing bacterial infections.
1. NIYAAT & TAKBEERAT (STANDING):
The very first posture requires oneself to bring hands up to ears opening the palms, placing thumbs behind earlobes and keeping the elbows bent. It takes approx. 5 seconds. We move hands & shoulder muscles thereby increasing the blood flow towards the body. Muscles of the back are loosened. Body feels relieved of weight owing to even distribution on both feet. The scapula & lower back are brought into a helpful neutral position with core muscles active. Vision and concentration is sharpened by focusing on the floor. Hence, brain signals are in the most relaxed state.
2. QUAYAM/QIYAM (STANDING):
The individual is to place hands, right over left and recite first chapter of the Quran along with a short chapter having at least 3 verses. It takes 40-60 seconds overall. Body and mind feel relaxed as the body weight is evenly distributed on both legs. Raising both hands and placing them on stomach expands the chest cavity. At the same time, reciting verses having the sound vibrations of long vowels ā, ī, and ū stimulates the heart, lungs, thyroid, pineal, pituitary and adrenal glands. Backbone is straight and breathing is natural. Thus, this posture ensures proper blood flow to the lower portion of the body and strengthens the leg muscles.
3. RUKOO /RUKU (BOWING):
The individual bows having the body bent forward, hands on top of the knees and hips parallel to the floor for approx. 12 seconds. Upon bowing the trunk, back, pelvis, hip, thighs and leg muscles are stretched. Ruku, in right posture can effectively slow aging process, improve water balance in the body, smooth the function of kidneys, eliminate flatulence, constipation and excess fat. This posture provides blood flow towards the upper half of the body. Even it treats and prevents backache & vertebral column related diseases. It reduces the risk of nerve compression and promotes flexibility of spine. Non-Muslim pregnant women working out only this posture during therapy, showed remarkable improvement within the month. Point to be noted, if not postured properly, these muscles will go into spasm causing back pain.
4. QIYAM/QAUMA (STANDING):
This dynamic posture involves rising from the bending position of ruku to the standing position with arms at side which takes approx. 6 seconds. As it involves standing without any support, entire body weight is on the toes. Fresh blood pumped towards the upper half returns to its normal route. The body is again in a relaxed and evenly balanced position.
5. SAJDAH/PROSTRATION (KNEELING):
The individual lowers himself slowly into a kneeling position while placing both hands on knees, then touches the head and hands to the ground. Forehead, two palms, two knees and toes of both feet should be in contact with the ground. Each rakaat of namaz requires 2 sajdahs. Prostration exercises the same muscles that bowing does, with more stress on the neck, toes and legs. Researches proved it to be a very effective posture for reducing blood pressure and the risks of heart diseases while increasing rates of fat burning. University Malaya Medical Centre Cardiology Consultant Specialist Prof Dr. Wan Azman Wan Ahmad found that heartbeat rate could be reduced by 10 times in a minute of the Prostration. While prostrating, drainage of sinuses and secretion of the bronchitis is occurred. So the chance of sinusitis and bronchitis gets reduced. Prostration increases venous return of blood reducing the chance of having hernia and piles. This posture helps to maintain smooth blood circulation towards the brain and stimulates pituitary and pineal gland. Another notable fact is that toes experience acupressure while prostrating. This is proved to be very effective against body pain. Besides, this posture is also proved to be a good treatment for retroversion of uterus and muscles associated with male reproductive system. For these very reasons, this is considered as the most important portion of namaz. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to lengthen the position of ruku & sajdah and advised to do so.
6. JALSA/TASHAHHUD (SITTING):
The individual sits on the floor in the kneeling position for a little longer (approx. 40-60 seconds) before the end of the prayer. Fresh blood which was pumped towards the upper half returns to the normal circulation again. In this posture, hip, elbow, knee joints, backbone, wrist joints move in such a way that provides a form of relaxation to the entire body. Pressure is applied on the body parts as if it is a kind of massage to release tension. Moreover, this position helps removing toxins from the body and moves the muscle in the colon helping digestion.
7. PEACE TO THE RIGHT & LEFT (SITTING):
The individual says the final salutation at the end of the prayer turning the head to the right & left. It massages the neck muscles increasing their flexibility. It is proved to be an excellent form of neck & upper vertebra exercise which helps to refresh all the nerves passing through this region, specially good in case of headache and contend migraine.
Namaz is like the prescription from Allah for better health and fitness who offers it regularly. It is the finest way to balance the metabolic processes of the body. Thus, it is the natural way to keep oneself healthy. It does magic to our spirit, health and lifestyle which is scientifically proven. Namaz should be offered mindfully, properly and regularly to get maximum of its benefits.