The Science and History of the Asian Squat
The Asian squat. I’ve always been able to do it naturally. For those of you who don’t know, the Asian squat is when you have both feet on the ground, butt touching ankles and knees spread wide. I’ve always done it but the first time I really noticed others doing it was when I went to Bali. Every street I walked down, there were lines and lines of men and women doing the Asian squat asking me if I wanted to buy women, drugs, and/or tourist crap. I almost forgot–in one hand they always had a cigarette and/or a beer. Sometimes both.
Still not sure what I’m talking about? Check out Daniel Hsia’s amazing video, “How to do the Asian Squat” .
It wasn’t until relatively recently did I find out that not everyone can do the Asian squat. It was difficult for me to believe since the Asian squat is as natural to me as breathing. So I conducted an informal study of my friends and found that the non-Asians weren’t able to do it. Or I should say, some could do it but they couldn’t hold it for more than a few seconds.
This got me thinking. Are Asians the only race of people specifically designed to do the Asian squat? My dear 8Asians reader, I have been put here on earth to answer this question for you. I’ve conducted hours… okay a half hour… of Internet “research.” This is what I discovered:
Where did the Asian squat come from?
Finding out the history of the Asian squat proved a lot more difficult than you would have imagined. I found only one site that mentioned where it came from and this is what they said:
Originating in India, the squat made its way to China, where Asians figured that it was the ideal way to eat rice and be ready to defecate at any given time.
I have a feeling they were being a little facetious but I think they were partially right. I believe it probably started because it was the preferred method to go number two. I remember when I took a month long backpacking course in the wilderness and I was ideally suited for going number two in the woods because I was naturally good at the Asian squat and could hold the position for hours (if I wanted to). My camping-mates were jealous.
Can non-Asians do the Asian squat?
Like the history of the Asian squat, finding any scientific studies on whether non-Asians could do the Asian squat proved very difficult. But I did find one:
So we did a test – 100% of the Asians could squat with feet on the ground (P<0.000063) while only 13.5% of North Americans could (p<0.0000043). And of the 13.5%, 9% had part ASIAN ancestry in them. The remaining one was a Yoga Freak.
It’s unclear how many people were tested in this study but these were pretty similar to what I have found amongst my friends.
What is it about Asians that give them the unique ability to the Asian squat?
There were a few sites that offered up some theories. Here were my favorites.
East Asians have proportionately shorter legs than most Americans, so their squat shall have a different balance point.
To test this theory I took off all my clothes and I looked in the mirror (which I don’t recommend if you value your eyesight). My legs did seem a little short but since I had nothing to compare it with, I will have to reserve judgment.
I think it’s the same reason why giraffes have longer necks according to the only theory I remembered from my high school biology class.
In many counties, Asians have to use a squat toilet.
Of course, this doesn’t explain Asian Americans who can do the Asian squat since I assume most of us use a typical sitting down American toilet but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless.
In the end, do I believe Asians are the only race that can do the Asian squat? No. To say one race can do something and that other races cannot is not only racist but also ignorant. We can all do the Asian squat. For some, it’s just a little easier. But it is not biological or even sociological; it is as simply a matter of flexibility. This was one persons recommendation on how EVERYONE can do the Asian squat.
Your problem is tight calf muscles. You didn’t grow up squatting on a regular basis so your calf muscles shortened. Women who wear high heals every day have an even worse problem with this as they find they can’t wear flat shoes or go barefoot comfortably. Shortened calf muscles caused from wearing shoes with heals higher than the ball of the foot (even an inch or less) is also a main contributing cause to plantar fasciitis.
Anyway, the solution takes time as you must slowly stretch the calf muscles to allow a proper flat footed squat. Stretch two or three times per day every day of the week and within a few months you’ll have no problem with a comfortable flat footed squat.
The Asian squat isn’t just for fun though. Apparently, there are health benefits to squatting while defecating:
People can control their defecation, to some extent, by contracting or releasing the anal sphincter. But that muscle can’t maintain continence on its own. The body also relies on a bend between the rectum–where feces builds up–and the anus–where feces comes out. When we’re standing up, the extent of this bend, called the anorectal angle, is about 90 degrees, which puts upward pressure on the rectum and keeps feces inside. In a squatting posture, the bend straightens out, like a kink ringed out of a garden hose, and defecation becomes easier.
Proponents of squatting argue that conventional toilets produce an anorectal angle that’s ill-suited for defecation. By squatting, they say, we can achieve “complete evacuation” of the colon, ridding our bowels of disease-causing toxins.
So as you can see the Asian squat isn’t just fun it’s healthy! My fellow Asians, let’s start a health movement: Do the Asian squat for a healthy life!
Who’s with me?
[Photo Courtesy of Sean Marc Lee 李子仁]