Can people squat comfortably if they are sufficiently lean? Or is there a knack?
I’ve always been able to squat comfortably – even when my BMI was 60+. It’s about being limber and being accustomed to it. When I was SMO, I preferred squatting over standing or sitting. I started squatting when I was a teenager, because I’d seen Mother Theresa do it in so many photographs and thought “holy crap, that woman is 900 years old and rickety as hell, if she does it, it must be comfortable!” and yeh, it is comfortable for me.
I just tried leaning farther forward, and found I can’t do it without ripping my calf muscles out of my legs, which I assume means my Achilles tendon is too tight, as WhyNot said.
Heh. So, you know I am bored at work. In my cubicle, I tried it with my shoes (4" heels) on and off – no difference in comfort level. Of course, in a skirt, I squat differently than I do in pants, in pants, my squat is knees apart, but either way, I tend to rest my butt on my calves. I don’t know if that makes a difference? Then again, I am pretty limber.
Without shoes, heels flat or up?
I took a forensic anthropology course in university that talked about how your bones and ligaments can change shape depending on what repetitive activites a person does during their life.
People who habitually squat have squatting facets - worn surfaces on certain parts of some ankle and foot bones that makes it easier to squat comfortably.
Related academic cites:
I haven’t watched the video yet, so I don’t know if we’re talking about the same thing, but…
I played catcher on a baseball team for a few seasons and I’m more comfortable squatting than anybody I know. For what it’s worth. And I’m on the fat side.
On the other hand, my sister was describing how my niece was able to squat on her heels and get up again effortlessly, and when I tried to emulate what she described, my sister said I was doing it all wrong.
So, beats me.
I’ve always wondered if there’s a correlation between the prevalence of toilets in the west and the relative absence of such in Asia meaning that people squat several times a day for extended periods from a young age.
Probably bunkum but maybe worthy of further research for Dr Goldstein’s next book.
Hijack: I once took one of those courses where they teach you how to politely deal with people from other cultures, like not showing the soles of your shoes or doing the A-okay sign. The instructor showed us some content that they use for Asians planning to visit North America; the first thing on the list was “don’t squat” while waiting for a bus or an appointment. Interesting perspective.
My wife and I can both do it so easily, we can’t believe there are people who can’t. That there are actually instructions struck her as particularly hilarious. I’ve noticed that people in the west do it less, but I chalked it up to simply having the luxury of more chairs. I can’t believe there is actually a physical basis for this, especially since my wife and I are both almost exclusively Western European in ancestry.
Not to make fun of you that can’t. I’ve just never thought of it as being something even remotely difficult. Learn something new everyday.
I can do it either way for extended periods, but I prefer to flat-foot it. If you want, I can put some clothes on (hey, it’s after work and I’m in my own home, don’t judge me!) and have my husband take pictures to show how I squat.
Dr. Woo – I have to be very conscious of my habit of squatting around my husband’s military buddies – it makes them nervous. Reminds them of the Middle Easterners. I am betting a big part of the cultural difference between Easterners/Westerners squatting has a lot to do with the prevalence of seating/seated toilets. I tend to squat when standing in line, too.
I’ve lived in houses here in Japan which only have “squatter” toilets. At first, I’d have to take a break and stand up, but after a year I could squat long enough at one session to finish what I needed to. I mostly use “sitter” toilets now, and am no longer able to squat that long.
My sister teaches yoga and says that there are poses which are based on the assumption that people are used to squatting.
Squatting is a practice I’ve just never gotten the hang of. Thais – mainly upcountry, you never see it in the city except among hicks – routinely squat while taking a break. And I mean fully flat-footed. Myself, I can only manage it on the balls of my feet; I simply cannot place both feet firmly flat on the ground while squatting. Given how common squat toilets still are everywhere upcountry, it’s not surprising that Thais develop this skill. But you definitely have to start young. The bones and muscles develop accordingly.
I dunno about other countries, but in Korea we get a lot of practice squatting as students. Not only from the toliets, but one common form of punishment is to make the students stand and squat, stand and squat repeatedly for an extended period of time. Another one is to make them squat, then shuffle from one end of the track field to the other in that position. We call this the duck walk.
I can squat and keep my balance in various positions (leaning forwards, leaning on my heels, feet together, feet apart) but I don’t think it’s comfortable, unless I’ve been standing for hours beforehand.
I have plantar fasciitis, it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and now I find I can’t even squat to check the bottom vegetable drawer without my feet screaming at me to kneel instead.
I’ve never been quite as grateful for my toilet as I am now.
Try this exercise:
With a couple of long scarves, bind up your feet and ankles until it requires significant effort to maintain a foot/leg angle of less than 90 degrees.
You have now replicated my Achilles tendon.
Now try to squat flat footed. Odds are you fall over backwards, just like me.
FWIW, my mother and brother can both flat-foot squat easily, my father and I cannot. There’s no Asian ancestry anywhere in the family, and no significant difference in size/weight/fitness between us. I don’t think the “Asian/European” distinction is particularly useful in working out why some people can’t flat foot squat, except that people in Asian countries would get more practise squatting, so the less supple (who exist in all racial groups) get practise at it, and get better.
Another Asian datapoint - Indonesians squat quite routinely. In fact I knew as soon as I went to click on the photos that I’d see Asians squatting.
Hmm…I’m not particularly lean (27 BMI), but I can do it (flat-footed squat) without any sort of discomfort or balance problems. Like DrCube, I didn’t realize this was kind of unusual. I occasionally will squat like this to relieve tension in my back and relax when standing for long periods of time.
I could squat before I ended up handicapped … but put me down as someone who assiduously avoided high heels and tended to spend most of my time out of school and not at work barefooted =) I also had my bed on the floor and no chairs in my bedroom from the age of 10 onwards, and still will sit with my feet tucked up under me on a sofa. Purgatorial to me is being forced to sit ‘normally’ for long periods of time. I am used to it for working on computer, but if hanging out I hate sitting ‘normal chair’ position.
[and I am one of those who detests wearing shoes inside and will take them off in anybodies house]
I’ve done it from time to time for years, mostly when my back is sore. Thirty seconds in that position and most back problems feel better. One minute, and they’re gone.
It’s a bit hard on my knees, but it works great.