Asian-style squats

Really, how hard is it to squat?

Not the way you’re taught in exercise classes, but the way our Asian ancestors did in the days when there were no sit-down toilets; after all, humans are meant to hunker down like our primate cousins.

The Asian squat is a form of deep squat found all over the world, not just in Asia.

However, when chairs, comfortable sofas, and toilets were invented in the West, people opted for comfort and began to lose flexibility in the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

Just look at the children; all of them can easily get into this position, but at some point in their growth, probably in adolescence, they lose this flexibility and prefer the chair for comfort.

As the West made the transition, the urban areas of Asia slowly followed suit.

In an Asian squat, the feet stay flat on the ground, which means there’s a greater range of motion in the hips, compared to a Western-style squat, where the thighs stay mostly parallel to the ground.

Many Westerners will naturally lift their heels to accommodate a deep squat or lean forward, illustrating limited flexibility in the hips and ankles.

If you look at populations where deep occupancy is more common, people are thinner as well.

That’s because they grew up with this tradition and felt comfortable with it.

They sit, eat, rest, wash clothes, work, and of course (women) urinate and defecate in this position.

Some pregnant women also use it to make childbirth easier.

More than a decade ago, a Chinese publication published a photo allegedly showing actress Zhang Ziyi squatting down to look at the bottom shelf of a store.

A sarcastic caption read: “Miss Zhang shows the special trait of our motherland compatriots: she spreads her legs and squats.”

I can’t blame her; after all, with China’s population, squatting is common in crowded places like train stations, where the floor is too dirty to sit on and there is limited public seating.

Poor Zhang has had to put up with the media mentioning this in almost every article written about her.

It’s not that she’s disturbed, but it seems like she’ll never be able to get over that.

hygiene concerns

As you can see, many struggle to do any type of squat due to joint stress in the ankles, hips, and knees.

Many in our region’s cultures have the perception that thigh-to-toilet seat contact is less hygienic, and some believe that infections can spread from the toilet seat.

This is why we sometimes see shoe marks on toilet seats, even in five-star hotels!

Fact: Many disease-causing organisms can survive for a short time on the surface of the toilet seat.

And even if you were in contact with the toilet seat during that little window, the germs would have to be transferred from the contaminated toilet seat to your urethral or genital tract, or through a cut or sore on your buttocks or thighs, for a chance thing. an infection.

While this situation is certainly possible, it is highly unlikely that it will actually occur.

The deep squat is my preferred position when correcting my students’ footwork and lower legs in dance or yoga classes.

How much longer I can keep doing this deep squat remains to be seen, though I’ve seen people in their 80s squat effortlessly!

Unfortunately, most urbanites can’t do this deep squat anymore.

Although genetics will influence things like bone length and shape, the ability to deep squat is more dependent on lifestyle factors.

If you’re of Asian descent, but spend all day sitting in front of your computer or in front of the TV, you may have tight hips and ankles, making it difficult for you to do any kind of deep squat.

When we sit down, most of our body weight is transferred to the chair.

This disconnects many of the deep muscles of the trunk and glutes, which are essential for maintaining good posture and protecting the spine.

Also, sitting too much tightens the hip flexors.

A tight hip flexor pulls the upper lumbar spine forward, pulling it out of alignment and can lead to back pain.

A deep squat ensures that the weight is evenly distributed across the spine and lower extremities.

More importantly, because you’re not transferring your entire body weight onto a chair, your core muscles are activated and protect your spine.

All is not lost if you can’t deep squat right now.

You can train to improve your hip and ankle flexibility and range of motion, so that you can eventually achieve this position.

Those with longer legs (like me) may find it biomechanically more difficult to squat deeply, and the determining factors will be your flexibility and range of motion in your hip and ankle joints.

gently does it

A word of caution: stick to western squats if you have knee problems.There is a tendency to lean forward when deepening into western squats, which could indicate weak glutes and/or tight hip flexors.There is a tendency to lean forward when deepening into western squats, which could indicate weak glutes and/or tight hip flexors.

If not, here’s how you can slowly start doing an Asian squat.

  • Find something like a sturdy bar that you can grab on to, maybe a bench, bar, table, etc.

    Ideally, it should be level with your pelvic bone or upper thigh.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and slightly turned out.
  • Hold on to the bar, which should be within arm’s reach in front of you, and slowly lower yourself to a sitting position without lifting your heels off the ground.

    Go as low as you can and stop if your heels start to lift off the ground.

    Your butt should be close to touching your ankles or resting on the backs of your legs if you can do a full squat without your heels coming off the ground.

  • Stay in this position for about 10 seconds before slowly straightening your legs; this will be a challenge for beginners.
  • Rest a few minutes and repeat.

    You can do up to 10 squats a day and increase both the frequency and duration as you improve.

  • As you get better, try not to hold on to the bar, which is supporting your weight.

    Focus on keeping your balance on your own.

    Over time, you will be able to squat without holding on to anything.

Remember, don’t spend too much time in this position, as it can cause numbness in your legs and pain or strain in your knees, as well as lower your blood pressure so much that you get dizzy when you stand up.

If any of these symptoms occur, sit up immediately and don’t go down as low when you try to deep squat again in the future.

If you can comfortably get into and hold a deep squat position and get back up easily, that’s great.

Continue to do this daily, as preventing loss of mobility is always easier than regaining it once lost.

Once you’ve mastered the Asian squat, you’ll find that it also helps support other exercises you do, as it allows you to engage more muscles like your quads (thighs), glutes (glutes), and hamstrings (back of thighs).

And who knows, you might prefer a squatting toilet to your sitting “throne”!

Revathi Murugappan is a certified physical trainer who tries to fight gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nurture her soul. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. None The star nor does the author make any warranties about the accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness, or other warranties as to such information. The star and the author disclaim all liability for loss, property damage, or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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