Muslim prayer rituals can be beneficial to more than your spiritual or emotional health. New research has found that the repetitive movements can reduce lower back pain and increase joint elasticity.
As part of the Islamic prayer ritual, the Salat, roughly 1.6 billion Muslims around the world pray in the direction of the holy city of Mecca up to five times a day by bowing, kneeling and placing their foreheads to the ground, the Independent reports.
The paper, titled An ergonomic study of body motions during Muslim prayer using digital human modelling, was published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering and conducted by an interfaith team of researchers.
Using digital human modelling on models of healthy Indian, Asian, and American men and women, the study found quiet prayer can help physical anxiety, and that proper knee and back angles can be an effective clinical treatment.
"One way to think about the movements is that they are similar to those of yoga or physical therapy intervention exercises used to treat lower back pain," study co-author Mohammad Khasawneh said.
The researchers found that the bowing portion is the most stressful on the lower back, but for individuals with low back pain, using proper knee and back angles during the ritual can reduce pain. The kneeling posture, which is known as sujud, was also found to increase the elasticity of joints.
"Prayer can eliminate physical stress and anxiety, while there is also research that indicates prayer rituals can be considered an effective clinical treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal dysfunction."
The group plans to conduct further research using sensors and cameras to track stresses on individual body parts during prayer.
The research focussed specifically on Islamic prayer practices, but similar movements are also found in Christian and Jewish prayer rituals, as well as yoga and physical therapy.