Sajdah (prostration) is a unique position or stance in the regular prayers, which a Muslim is supposed to offer at least five times a day. Although the basic purpose of obligatory prayers is not to provide exercise, yet it is being increasingly recognized that it has plenty of medical advantages for the human body.
The Prophet, , mentioned in a Hadeeth (narration) collected by Ibn Majah that prayer is a cure for many diseases. A person who offers his prayers regularly, especially in the mosque, is protected from many ailments some of which he many not even know. The position of Sajdah in which the forehead touches the earth is exclusively associated with the Muslim form of prayer. It is the climax of a Muslim's prayer and as mentioned in a Hadeeth as the position in which a Muslim is nearest to Allah The Almighty.
Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported in Saheeh Bukhari that the Messenger of Allah, , said: "The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make supplication (in this state)."
Aa`ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates that the Prophet , , used to prolong the prostration to such an extent that one could recite fifty verses (of the Quran) before he lifted his head. (Al-Bukhari).
In another Hadeeth narrated by Anas bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet , , advised Muslims to perform Ruku' (bowing) and Sajdah properly.
In another Hadeeth he advised to perform Sajdah and bowing calmly and to get up only when the body has come to ease.
In the supplication for the victory, he also performed a long bowing (Ruku') and Sajdah in the special prayers at the time of eclipse. Hence, the first positive effect upon a person who prostrates or does Sajdah is that he comes nearest to Allah The Almighty and hence in that condition he can supplicate. This is a great psychological advantage and it gives relief to the person concerned, as life is full of worries and in this position he gets at least a transient refuge and succor.
Effect on muscles
When a person goes to the position of prostration Sajdah his whole body is in an active motion. In this position, the Musalli (the person who offers prayer) rests his forehead on the ground while his hands are placed at the sides. This brings most of the body muscles, if not all, in active motion and gives them some exercise.
The hands are then stretched out in a manner such that the forearm as well as arm muscles bear the weight in the Sajdah position. This is good exercise for the muscles of the upper limbs. The Prophet , , in a Hadeeth advised people not to put the forearms flatly on the ground but to keep them elevated above the ground. From the physical point of view, this is better for the forearm and arm muscles.
Effect on blood circulation
Sajdah is a unique position as this is the only position in which brain (or head) becomes lower than the heart, and hence the blood gushes towards the brain with full force, whereas in all other positions (even when lying down) the brain is above the heart when it has to work against gravity to send blood to the brain.
In the position of Sajdah, due to the increased blood supply, the brain receives more nourishment, which has a good effect upon memory, vision, hearing, concentration, psyche and all other cognitive abilities. People who offer their prayers regularly may have stronger willpower and can cope with the difficulties of life in much better ways. They are less vulnerable to headaches, psychological problems and other disorders of the cognitive functions.
Effect on neck muscles
In the unique position of Sajdah the neck muscles get the best exercise. They have to bear the load when the forehead touches the ground; hence, the neck muscles become stronger. One can note the tense pressure at the neck muscles in the position of Sajdah, specially the active motion of the neck and the facial muscles when the head is lifted. (e.g. one inch above the ground) and it will be observed that they are in a very active state.
Stronger cervical muscles mean the cervical vertebra will be better protected. The strength of the cervical muscles is important, as the head rests upon cervical vertebra, supported by cervical musculature.
In fact, the head performs rotator movements over the cervical vertebra. In case of an accident, examination of the cervical (neck) region is especially important to physicians.
It is uncommon that a person who offers his prayers regularly will get common neck ailments like myalgias or cervical spondylosis, because the neck muscles in particular become very strong due to the 34 Sajdahs offered daily in five prayers.
Effect on internal organs and muscles
The position of the Sajdah is also said to be a good treatment for the retroversion of the uterus, a disease of women.
Most of us do not know that the position of Sajdah is an excellent exercise for men. While rising from Sajdah the perineal muscles pull the trunk back to sitting position and they contract actively. Similarly, while getting up from Sajdah, the perenial muscles are again actively mobilised and this gives strengthens the muscles associated with the male reproductive system.
The unique position of Sajdah also has positive effects upon the back muscles as while going into Sajdah and getting up from it the back muscle contract actively and they become stronger. Probably, it is because of this reason that a person who is regular in prayers seldom gets a backache.
After performing Sajdah either the Musalli stands up or he sits to pray. In this position the person sits calmly while his hands rest at his thighs which are folded backwards. This has a soothing effect upon one's health and mental condition.
Prophet Muhammad, , used to lengthen the position of Ruku' (bending) and Sajdah and advised others to do so, as well. In the light of the above facts it is appropriate to say that from the medical point of view this advice is a golden rule for health.
In conclusion, we should keep in mind that prayer is not meant to be an exercise. However, there are a lot of medical advantages associated with it. Still, the best blessing is the peace of mind, which a person derives by the accomplishment of his duty to Allah The Almighty by fulfilling an obligation.