Synthesis of Namaz and Yoga

Sri Ashrad F. Nizami, Baroda

Namaz is a subject most cherished and treasured by me from my boyhood. Since I am only a novice in yoga, I shall confine myself to namaz and its salient features relevant to yoga.

My background in yoga

In this context, I think I should describe the circumstances under which I happened to be associated with yoga. When I was a little boy of 13, I happened to witness a yogi performing some of the yogasanas. A surprised crowd was watching him with rapt attention and admiration. I watched him, but I did not stop with that. I asked myself why can I not do what that yogi was doing. Curiosity and determination to perform yoga were uppermost in my mind.

Whenever I came across any books on yoga, I used to read them and start practising the various postures. Particular mention must be made of the book 'Yoga in Simple' by Swami Nityananda. His statement: "Yoga is beyond all religion," struck me most and encouraged me to go ahead. Thus, without attending any course, I not only mastered all the important postures of yoga, but also succeeded in getting my family members interested in yoga as well.

What is namaz?

In Arabic, namaz is known as 'salaat', which is derived from 'silaa' meaning 'meeting'. Thus namaz is a means for meeting God; that is, during namaz man's submission and God's acceptance take place. This namaz, formulated by the great Prophet Mohammed (Peace be on Him), under the inspiration of God, has to be prayed 5 times a day: before sunrise, at noon, between noon and sunset, just after sunset, and before bedtime.

Namaz consists of rakaats, each rakaat being a series of 7 postures. For example, before sunrise, 2 rakaats or 14 postures must be performed. Thus each Muslim is under obligation to perform 119 postures per day, that is 3750 postures per month and 42,840 postures per year. Suppose, if we live up to an average of 50 years, namaz being obligatory from the age of 10 years, we would have performed 1,713,600 postures compulsorily in this lifetime.

Thus, if a Muslim practises namaz strictly and properly, he will be automatically fit and sound physically, mentally and spiritually. In this respect Al Quran (29:45) says: "Innas Salata Tanha Fhasyaye. Valmunkar," which is rendered in English as: "Neither ill feeling nor unhealthy thought can occupy the mind of a namazee."

The synthesis of namaz and yoga

You will be interested to know that when I started performing namaz as an adult, I was also practising yoga side by side. I practised namaz because it was a religious obligation, and I practised yoga because of my sheer interest.

Being very particular about adherence to the right postures of both namaz and yoga, I realized that namaz, if performed strictly according to the tenets of Islam, will not only lead the namazee to experience spiritual upliftment, but will also maintain physical fitness and mental peace.

At this juncture it dawned upon my mind, like an insight, that namaz postures are similar to yogic postures and therefore namaz, while being performed as a religious obligation, can simultaneously give the namazee all the benefits of yoga. I became convinced that the 7 postures of namaz are the simplified and condensed versions of yogic postures in their external and internal qualities.

At this moment, my mind went a step further in the synthesis of namaz and yoga. That is, this discovery can be made use of for furthering the national integration. In certain parts of India, communal riots between Hindus and Muslims are often reported. If we can succeed in making these two communities understand that the basic principles of yoga associated with Hinduism are also the essence of namaz and of Islam, then they will give up looking at each other with enmity and begin to treat one another as brothers.

Seven postures of namaz and their impact on the nervous system.

Fig. 1 - Quaym: Body and mind feel relaxed and balanced as the weight of the body is evenly distributed on both legs. Backbone is straight, and breathing is natural and invigorating. Control of thoughts and concentration of mind become easier on account of focusing the eyes steadily on the spot of Sajda.

Fig. 2 - Rukoo: This pose is equal to quarter sirshasana or semi-paschimottanasana. Blood is pumped towards the upper half of the body. This is an effective pose for elimination of flatulence and excess fat. Spine is made supple and spinal nerves are nourished; backaches and pains are relieved. Also provides effective relief in cases of constipation. Tones up calf and thigh muscles, backbone, abdomen, kidneys, etc.

Fig. 3 - Quanta: Fresh blood pumped towards the upper half of the body now returns to its normal route. The body is again in a relaxed and evenly balanced position.

Fig. 4 - Sajda: This pose is similar to shashankasana or half sirshasana. It helps pump blood into the brain and upper half of the body, including eyes, ears, nose and lungs. As such, by the performance of this posture, all the benefits of shashankasana as well as a proportionate benefit of sirshasana are simultaneously derived. It is also an effective cure for cardiac and circulatory diseases.

Fig. 5 - Jalsa: This hardy pose is like vajrasana. Again the fresh blood which was pumped towards the upper half of the body now returns to normal circulation. This is the best pose for relaxing the muscles, including those related to the spine. This pose stimulates circulation in the nerves and muscles of the thighs. It eliminates indigestion and constipation, and is beneficial in the case of peptic ulcer or other stomach ailments. It concentrates the mind on its spiritual pursuit, and is commonly used as a meditation pose by Japanese Buddhists.

Fig. 6 - Sajda: This is again comparable to half sirshasana. As the practitioner returns to the fourth position for a second time, the repetition of this pose within a few seconds produces a beneficial effect on the respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems.

Fig. 7 - Returning to Fig. 1: This is like the squatting pose of utkatasana. It is a dynamic posture which involves standing up without any support, so that the entire weight of the body is on the toes. This exercises the backbone, thighs, knees and leg muscles, increasing strength by daily repetition. The person who regularly offers namaz in this posture will be free from backache and any degenerative disease of the joints, like osteoarthritis of the knees, during his lifetime.

(Paper read by Sri Ashraf F. Nizami at the Raipur National Yoga Convention on 3.10.81.)