The Jewish custom of rocking in prayer (shuckling): why don't Christians do it?

Why don’t Christians do this? I sometimes will rock back and forth in prayer, like at Adoration. I don’t do it to the same degree as the Jewish people I’ve seen, but maybe just a small rocking. I find it helpful for relaxing, concentrating on the Lord, and avoiding the distraction or sleepiness that sometimes comes with sitting for a long period of time very still in one position.

I saw a Jewish person doing it in a much larger rocking motion over King David’s tomb a couple years ago and it reminded me of when I was a child, some kids would rock to comfort or center themselves and there were even plastic TV watching chairs for kids so they could sit on the floor and rock a little while they watched. The kids across the street had them and one kid rocked all the time even when sitting in a regular chair. He took it a little too far but the point is that some rocking can be beneficial. So, why don’t Christians seem to do this?

(I have also read that Muslims are explicitly forbidden from doing it.)

It is relaxing and I find myself doing it as well. I loved rocking my sons when they were little.


As I understand it, there is some mystical reason the Jews do it — they call it “davening”, or rather, “davening” can be just prayer in general, of which “shockelling” is just a part. Something about divine energy or something.

I have found myself doing this sometimes while praying the rosary or similar prayers. In my case, it is just probably burning off some fidgetiness that comes from sitting still for a long period of time. It is very difficult for me to kneel (bad knees and spinal/hip discomfort that comes from standing or kneeling for long periods of time), so sitting or reclining is my normal prayer posture. If I had to guess, it is probably just a natural human reaction, in some people, to being still for so long.

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Former major league pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, was well known for his constant rocking while sitting in the dugout as a from of relaxation. Braves and Orioles fans became very familiar with the technique.


It is also a behavior — “stimming” — associated with autism. But that does not mean everyone who rocks, enjoys rocking, or finds it comforting or relaxing, is autistic.

A lot of this “autism symptom-hunting” business anymore is getting just a little ridiculous. And clearly not all davening Jews are autistic.


I sometimes do when standanding in prayers… I only rock back a forth a little bit, but plenty enough for me to notice.

I typically do it when I’m physically tired when standing for prayer (for example: I didn’t sleep well the night before, etc)

While I don’t deliberately do it for religious reasons, it does help me to pray when I’m having trouble standing.

Those with ADHD stim also, as do those with anxiety disorders. It’s actually a very helpful regulation technique and I notice I have a variety of stimming behaviours, as does one of our kids who also has ADHD. I never thought about it until this thread, but I also find myself rocking during prayer and even lectures. I’m so easily distracted and the rhythm helps to mitigate outside stimulation.

Good to know, I would hate to think all those grandmas in rocking chairs over the decades were on the spectrum.

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And maybe it just feels good and comforting.

There is a disturbing tendency nowadays, to take everything that falls outside some archetypical, Platonic concept of “the ideal normal”, and to attach a pathology to it.

Case in point: it is a pet peeve of mine, when people speculate that someone who speaks bluntly, doesn’t beat around the bush, and doesn’t pick up on unspoken “cues”, “hints”, and complicated body language of other people, has either Asperger syndrome or autism. I would respond “and what is so all-fired difficult about just saying what’s on your mind, rather than forcing the other guy to ‘read your tea leaves’, figure out what you’re really thinking, and if he can’t, won’t, or doesn’t see the point of doing that, there’s ‘something wrong with him’? — if you’re just too sheepish, or bashful, or whatever, to speak your mind, that’s far more on you, than on him to read your mind”. A pained, annoyed look on someone’s face could be psychological irritation, it could be a headache, or it could be gas.

And no, I am not Asperger’s or autistic. I have been in circumstances where something like that would have been detected a long time ago, and it wasn’t. I just don’t like to see other people pigeon-holed when their body language, or manner of speaking, or unique personality gets them tagged as “not quite right”. There is such a thing as diversity.


To all…I recommend trying it! It especially goes well when it’s a chanting type prayer. It’s very soothing, relaxing and helps focus. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine, but give it a try and see if you find it helps focus your whole being on the prayers. :hugs:


I remember when I was studying Judaism before becoming Catholic and sometimes in the synagogue when standing during prayer I found myself doing
it. It was comforting and almost like I was in a different consciusness. I don’t know how to explain it. Almost tje same feeling I get when in Adoration and I reach a very peaceful consciousness - something like a trance I guess.

Come on, @HomeschoolDad :joy: Just kidding–I totally agree with you. I’m a psychologist and mental health is my wheelhouse, but I agree that pathologising every behaviour is ridiculous. We like to put people in neat categories and many times that is to the detriment of the individual. Also, over diagnosing people is detrimental to those who truly need help and takes services away from those most in need of therapy and interventions.


I have heard — and I don’t mean you — that some mental health professionals come to their diagnosis within the first ten minutes, and everything from there on out, is oriented towards buttressing that diagnosis.

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I was just thinking to myself…why do I rock so much when I pray? I think that for me personally, rocking is more comforting. I like being in motion for some reason. Maybe it’s because I’m fidgety. Rocking helps keep me focused and calms me down. I can’t attest for Jewish spiritual practices, just my own quirks. :smiley:

Two reasons have been given for shuckling. One is that prayer involves not only the mind, heart, and mouth, but also every fiber of the body. The second reason is, I think, more interesting. The rocking motion of the body is viewed as an effort of the soul to escape its mundane home and ascend to heaven, its initial and true home. As is typical, both reasons are justifiable according to Jewish tradition.


Is it to be used for all prayer, or only formal “liturgical” prayer?

And to think I rocked back and forth because I returned to the Church when my children were young enough to need to be rocked at Mass! It took me a long time after they got big to stop doing that, now I know why :smiley:

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Rocking the body stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system or the polyvagal complex that malfunctions in those with autism .

Bouncing on a swiss ball has the same effect , so is blowing wind instruments. The system which goes on hyper alert and disables social cognition for fight now reverses into rest,repose, the voice and facial tones promote social cohesion to reproduce.


New word for today — “polyvagal”. (I already knew “parasympathetic”.)

I must be getting narcoleptic in my old age. (My father falls asleep at the drop of a hat, and he always has.) Whenever I have to sit still at Mass for a long period of time, or even sometimes when I’m reading to my son in school, I start nodding off. Even when I was still working, sometimes I’d almost fall asleep at my desk. Rocking or moving around helps to stave that off.

I do it when praying meditative prayers like the Rosary. Like @Pattylt said, it’s very beneficial for putting one in a trance-like state…but for me that’s only if it’s a gentle forward-backward rocking! I’ve seen videos of Jews rocking sideways and forward-backward much too violently for my liking and honestly anything more emphatic than a gentle foward-backward bowing of the shoulders interferes with my concentration so that instead of focusing on prayer I end up focusing on which direction to sway next and how strongly.

I think it’s a nice tradition and I like to think that that’s how Jesus and Mary must have prayed in their time on Earth. However, I think care much be advised as some scrupulous Catholics may come to believe that the act of rocking has some sort of spiritual significance when it’s simply something done by choice to help one concentrate or burn off restlessness from standing still or sitting too much.

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