So I am a little bit of scientist, and I frequently experiment with things I read about in the saints. Recently, I have noticed that several sources discuss how to pray with the body and I am also aware that many saints would practice what is generally called “prostrations.”
For example, there is St. Dominic the famous founder of the Dominicans. He was well known for having several different prayer postures that he would alternate between. In addition, in the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius recommends alternating positions in order to aid in recollection. He even suggests taking walks while doing his famous imaginative meditations.
My experiment has developed as follows:
Due to nature of priestly work, I tend to spend many hours a day a sitting. When I have gone to pray at various times of the day (I tend to take prayer breaks throughout my day and into the night), I often find that my body has a kind of fatigue that comes from inactivity. Thus, if I try to sit and pray, such a strategy only increases the desolation I am experiencing.
What I have discovered is that engaging the body is much better in helping me to process my stress and cultivate stillness. In addition to scheduling more exercise and physical activity, I also spend time alternating between different prayer postures and gathering my attention into the heart (as the Eastern Fathers often say).
Thus, when I am processing my day, I might make multiple prostrations and bows in my chapel and then pray standing. Then I might sit for a moment, and then repeat the pattern. I also enjoy stretching my hands out wide and just imagining my whole body actively surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit.
I add a word of caution, one that comes directly from the exercises. St. Ignatius of Loyola advises us against doing these kinds of prayer in public, and we all know the reason, it can look weird to others.
Thus, consider praying with the body, but don’t be weird. 🙂