Asian Squat Update: Why it’s good for you and why it’s going away

“A guru once told me that the problem with the West is they don’t squat.” – Rosie Spinks

One of 8Asians’ most popular articles continues to be Koji Sakai’s article on the “Asian” Squat

We recently got a comment from one of our readers on how the Asian Squat seems to be a way to help with a particular health problem but that the reader could not readily achieve the position.  Shortly after that, I saw this piece by Rosie Spinks about how the “Asian Squat” can be good for people’s health, but sadly, is going away with certain people in Asia.

Is the Asian squat really good for you? 
Spinks points out a number of health benefits.  The squat position is better for defecating as the bowels are better aligned.  Squatting is said to help enable child birth.  Americans generally sit too much – squatting more can strengthen leg muscle and maintain hip flexibility.  This is something that I personally work on, as professional trainers build workouts based on squatting exercises like this one that I have incorporated in my routine.

Why is the squat declining in parts of Asia? 
It’s not just in the West that squatting is seen is something low class and primitive.   Spinks quotes one of her colleagues from India who says that the above statement would apply to rich and middle classes across the globe, including Asia.  The generation of Filipino Americans that I grew up with would love to poke fun at the squat and at people doing the squat, considering it really FOB.  Toilet design, particular toilet seats, has had a drastic effect on squatting.

Spinks points out that children all over the world, including in the West squat naturally.  It’s really not just an “Asian” squat but a human squat.   If you look at babies and toddlers, they squat and get up easily.  The posture that gets socialized out of many people and with years of sitting, they lose the flexibility and muscle strength necessary to do it.  My cousin, a yoga instructor, says that many of her students cannot do the Asian squat because they just can’t keep their heels on the ground.  Can people learn, or more appropriately, relearn how to do it?  Probably, if they work on flexibility to get into that position.  When researching this article, I saw a number of YouTube videos that teach training methods to enable squatting.

Can one overdo squatting? 
Some studies suggest that prolonged squatting for hours a day may lead to knee problems, but most people in the world, and probably almost everyone in Western countries, don’t do that.  Sitting too much is far more problematic. 

Personally, I found that doing squats helps with the muscle imbalances that can come with running and working in tech sitting in from of a screen all day.  So I would encourage people to consider squatting more.  Consult first with your physician if training to do the Asian squat requires a substantially new exercise program.

[Photo Courtesy of Sean Marc Lee 李子仁]

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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