Common prayer postures are diverse and much depend upon what religion you practice. They can be very simple or extremely intricate, and what posture you’re in can sometimes depend on exactly what you’re praying or the particular point in a religious service. Common prayer postures can also vary from church to church within a religion, and even where certain postures are fairly normal, exception is usually made for those too young to understand the correct postures, and also for those who cannot get into a particular position for physical reasons.
Sitting, standing, and kneeling are some of the most common prayer postures, and they may be adopted to small or large degree by a variety of churches, temples and mosques, and also for home use. Kneeling shows devotion to God and it’s especially used in Roman Catholic churches, where people will kneel during the reading of certain prayers, such as right after receiving communion. Many Christians also kneel beside their beds to pray at night or when they receive blessings from a spiritual leader in their church.
Many religions adopt similar hand positions when praying. Clasping the hands in front of the chest with the palms together is not unique to Christianity. The same position is used in various yoga asanas, which depending upon the type of yoga you’re practicing may be a legitimate form of prayer. Similarly, praying with the arms wide, and the palms turned upward is not an uncommon posture in multiple religions.
In Islam, as in many other religions, common prayer postures may depend upon the type of prayer you’re saying. Most people are familiar with the various times that Muslims will pray while kneeling on their heels with the forehead touching the ground. This pose bears a great deal of resemblance to the child’s pose asana in yoga.
Another of the common prayer postures is bowing the head, again a symbol of respect for gods worshipped. Many people also pray or meditate with the legs crossed, or in a semi-kneeling position where you sit on your heels. Arm and hand positions may be specific or nonspecific depending upon where and how your worship. One posture that is adopted in many churches is the holding of hands during prayers. This reinforces the idea of church community and fellowship.
There are often jokes about common prayer postures, particularly when it comes to the Roman Catholic church, since in a single mass, you may be required to sit, stand, kneel, and genuflect (bow), in addition to walking up to receive communion if you are a practicing Catholic. This has led to the long-standing joke among Catholics that you really ought to stretch and warm up before heading to mass. It certainly can be a little confusing for visitors to churches that employ a lot of different prayer positions. If you are visiting such a church, consider having a friend tell you which way to move next, or simply watch other congregants for directions on what to do.