Prostration is the placement of the body in a reverentially or submissively prone position. Major world religions employ prostration either as an act of submissiveness to God or gods, or as a means of embodying reverence for a noble person, persons or doctrine. Within various cultures and traditions, prostrations are similarly used to show respect to civil authorities and more accomplished masters. The act is thus often an important part of religious, civil and traditional rituals and ceremonies.

Traditional religious practices

Many religious institutions (listed alphabetically below) use prostrations to embody the lowering, submitting or relinquishing of the individual ego before a greater spiritual power or presence.

Bahai Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, a single prostration is performed instead of each unsaidwhich obligatory prayer and say "Glorified be God, the Lord of Might and Majesty, of Grace and Bounty". However, if unable to do so, saying "Glorified be God" is sufficient. [Source: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book, by Baha'u'llah, #14.]


In Buddhism, prostrations are universally used to show reverence to and gratitude for the gifts of the Triple Gem:
* the Awakened One (Sanskrit/Pali: "Buddha")
* his teaching (Sanskrit: "Dharma"; Pali: "Dhamma")
* his community ("Sangha") of noble disciples ("ariya-savaka"). [For an example of how this reverence for the Triple Gem is embodied in the Pali Canon, see, e.g., the Ratana Sutta.]

In addition, different schools within Buddhism use prostrations in various ways, such as the Tibetan tantric preliminary practice of a 100,000 prostrations as a means of overcoming pride (see Ngöndro). [See the "Namo Buddha Glossary of Buddhist Terminology," entry "four special foundations" (retrieved 2008-09-03 at]


In Christianity, in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, prostrations are used during the imposition of Holy Orders. "Low bows" ("zemnoy poklon") are also common in Eastern Orthodox practice. In the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, prostrations ("profound bows") can be used in place of genuflections for those who are unable to genuflect. During Great Lent, and Holy Week, prostration is especially encouraged in all the Eastern Churches. The Coptic, Armenian, Emiretean, and Ethiopian Orthodox churches (Oriental Orthodox Churches) also prostrate during daily prayers. Syrian Orthodox Christians prostrate, or should, during all daily prayers, except on days which the Holy Liturgy is celebrated.


In Hinduism, eight-limbed ("ashtanga pranama") and five-limbed ("panchanga pranama") prostrations are included in the religious ritual of puja.which


In Islam, prostrations ("sujud") are used to praise, glorify and humble oneself in front of God, and are a vital part of the five obligatory prayers performed daily; this is deemed obligatory for every Muslim irrespective of the prayers being performed individually or in congregation. [ [ How to Perform Salaah] ] [ The Medical Advantages of Sajdah] - by Dr. Muhammad Karim Beebani] [ Benefits of Salaah] - by Dr. Zakir Naik] Additionally, the thirty-second chapter ("sura") of the Qur'an is titled As-Sajdah ("The Prostration") (See cite quran|32|1|1|style=nosup|begin=no|t=y), while the Arabic word "Sujood" (also meaning prostration) appears about 90 times in the Qur'an, a fact which many Muslim scholars claim to be another example of its significance in Islam..]

According to a Hadith (collection of oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of Muhammed) report in the Ibn Majah, Muhammed is reported to have said that 'The prayer (Salaah) is a cure for many diseases', and in another Hadith he is also said to have advised people to perform prostration calmly and to get up only when the body has come to ease..]


In Judaism, the Talmudic texts as well as writings of Gaonim and Rishonim indicate that prostration was common among many Jewish communities until some point during the Middle Ages. Members of the Karaite denomination practice full prostrations during prayers. Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews prostrate during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as did Yemenite Jews during the Tachanun part of regular daily Jewish prayer until somewhat recently. Ethiopian Jews traditionally prostrated during a holiday specific to their community known as Sigd. "Sigd" comes from a root word meaning prostration in Amharic, Aramaic, and Arabic. There is a movement among "Talmide haRambam" to revive prostration as a regular part of daily Jewish worship.

Other contexts

Outside of traditional religious institutions, prostrations are used to show deference to worldly power, in the pursuit general spiritual advancement and as part of a physical-health regimen.

Imperial China

In Imperial China, a form of prostration known as a kowtow was used as a sign of respect and submission.

Martial arts

Shugyo in martial arts, particularly in the Shotokai and Kyokushin styles of Karate, it is a form of extreme spiritual discipline.


In modern yoga practice, "sun salutations" ("sūrya namaskāra") are a regular part of practitioners' routines. Such a practice may be used for both maintaining physical well-being and spiritual attainment.

See also

* Bowing
* Genuflection
* Salaah
* Subordination


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  • prostration — Prostration …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • prostration — [ prɔstrasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1300 « prosternation »; lat. prostratio, de prostratus, p. p. de prosternere 1 ♦ Relig. Attitude liturgique qui consiste à s étendre entièrement sur le sol, face contre terre, après s être agenouillé. ⇒ prosternation. 2 ♦… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Prostration — Pros*tra tion, n. [L. prostratio: cf. F. prostration.] 1. The act of prostrating, throwing down, or laying fiat; as, the prostration of the body. [1913 Webster] 2. The act of falling down, or of bowing in humility or adoration; primarily, the act …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • prostration — I noun abasement, bow, breakdown, cataclysm, collapse, consumption, debility, decay, decrepitude, defeat, dejection, demolition, depression, desolation, despair, despondency, destruction, distress, downfall, downthrow, enervation, exhaustion,… …   Law dictionary

  • prostration — (n.) c.1400, action of prostrating oneself, from PROSTRATE (Cf. prostrate) + ION (Cf. ion). Meaning weakness, exhaustion, dejection is from 1650s …   Etymology dictionary

  • prostration — [präs trā′shən] n. [LL prostratio] 1. a prostrating or being prostrated 2. utter physical or mental exhaustion or helplessness …   English World dictionary

  • Prostration — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Prostration (homonymie). En médecine, la prostration est un état de faiblesse et de fatigue extrêmes qui se manifeste par l effondrement des fonctions musculaires du patient et par son immobilité. La prostration… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • prostration — /pro stray sheuhn/, n. 1. the act of prostrating. 2. the state of being prostrated. 3. extreme mental or emotional depression or dejection: nervous prostration. 4. extreme physical weakness or exhaustion: heat prostration. [1520 30; < LL… …   Universalium

  • PROSTRATION — s. f. Il signifie la même chose que Prosternation. Voyez ce mot. PROSTRATION, en termes de Médecine, Affaiblissement extrême, abattement. Cet accès fut suivi d une grande prostration de forces …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 7eme edition (1835)

  • Prostration — ◆ Pro|stra|ti|on auch: Prost|ra|ti|on 〈f. 20〉 1. 〈geh.〉 Kniefall 2. 〈Med.〉 Erschöpfung [<lat. prostratio „das Niederwerfen“; <pro „für“ + stratus, Part. Perf. von sternere „hinbreiten, hinstreuen“] ◆ Die Buchstabenfolge pro|st... kann in… …   Universal-Lexikon

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