You’re probably here out of curiosity on something that you may have seen on TV, in films, at the gym, or even on the streets.
Conjure up the image of people from Asian countries performing a deep squat, their feet flat on the floor and their bums nearly touching the ground, seen anywhere from religious temples to the high-street or park.
It is not uncommon to see Asian people squatting in places that some of us may consider obscure or random. This is what is known as an Asian squat.
Today, we will explain what it is, why it is so popular, and whether or not you can do it. If you are planning a trip to an Asian country then it may be worth getting accustomed to this type of squat beforehand too, as, in many Asian countries, their public restrooms sometimes have pans that require people to squat down rather than sitting as if they are in a chair.
In fact, in Asia, having skin-on contact with a toilet seat is considered very unsanitary, and where that is normal for most western cultures, in eastern/ Asian cultures, squatting is considered to be the more normal option.
What is the Asian Squat?
In most Asian countries people prefer to squat rather than stand. It is a very common resting position, often more-so than lying down, sitting in a chair, or even leaning.
In addition to this, the Asian squat is used while performing normal everyday activities, including eating, smoking, doing laundry, reading, playing games, and even talking on the phone, amongst more. You may often find people doing an Asian squat while eating a snack too.
In many parts of Asia, toilets are not common, this is due to a sanitary issue, as more people believe that it is much more hygenic where there is no skin-to-skin contact between the same seat and different people.
So instead of a traditional toilet like we are used to, a pan is provided and people are then expected to squat down and use the washroom this way. This is most common in public restrooms. Some households and urban centers will have toilets, but a vast majority of rural homes still use pans.
The use of pans and the idea of squatting down in the washroom is one of the many major cultural differences between the Eastern and Western countries and cultures. And this is often why so many people from Western countries are surprised by the Asain squat.
How to perform an Asian Squat
The Asian squat can be easy to do if you are accustomed to squats. This squat requires you to sit with your hips between your ankles.
At the same time having your torso upright and with your heels flat against the ground. The position is something called ‘Mult-segmental, which requires advanced hip-ankle-knee mobility to be performed correctly.
You can try you doing the Asian squat yourself by trying to do the following things; Find yourself a stance that is slightly wider than shoulder-width flare out your toes, bend at the hips and knees, cracking at the same time and lower yourself towards the floor.
Think about your body weight, keeping it over the midway point of your foot as to ensure you are not rocking backward or forwards. Squat deeply, as deeply as you can, trying to keep your torso upright and keeping your heels firmly on the ground.
Rest your arms on your knees, this may help with your balance too. Hold this position for several minutes and try to relax your muscles while you do this. It may be hard the first few times but over time it will get easier.
Why is it so hard to do?
There are a few reasons why you may find the Asian squat hard to do. It can be exceedingly hard if you cannot get low enough or if you lack the stamina needed to hold it for long periods of time.
Some of the reasons completing an Asian Squat can be so hard can be overcome, whereas others are less likely to be conquered.
Let’s have a look at the possible reasons that you are finding it so hard to do.
Why Some people cant do it
One of the greatest limitations in performing an Asian squat is not having adequate mobility. This type of movement requires a superior level of mobility, especially in the hips and ankles, in order to correctly perform. It is believed, through studies, that a person’s level of ankle mobility is associated primarily with the ability to assume a proper posture in a deep squat.
There can be various reasons for a lack of mobility. Some people may have biological limitations in mobility, this could be due to how their bones attach to specific joints, everyone has a natural degree of mobility that can be improved by training though, and even if your bones don’t attach traditionally, dedicated training can help you move past this so that you can achieve the perfect Asian squat eventually.
The problem that many face is that a great day of people are not forced to work on their mobility as their day-to-day activities do not really require such improvements.
Many people in the western world, will drive to and from work each day and sit at a desk. For a person living this life, mobility is not a concern for their average day. So this person may struggle to enhance their mobility and they will require more training than someone who requires their mobility for their work life.
You may wonder why it is so often seen in Asian cultures and why they can do it without so much training. This is because children are raised to use the deep squat in various parts of their lives, each day. In this sense, they are working on their natural ankle mobility from childhood and as they get older they continue to practice using this level of mobility in their everyday lives.
There are exercises you can do to increase ankle mobility for squats. You can easily perform these exercises at home without any equipment so you cam fit them into your daily routine.
It may sound odd but your body proportions can actually affect your ability to perform a deep squat. If you were born with certain limb lengths and proportions you may find it much harder to complete the deep squat motion than others.
Your body is divided into segments, these are the lengths of your bones between certain joints. A good example of this is your leg, as most people will know these well, you have the lower leg or the tibia, which is the bone between your ankle and knee. And you have your upper leg, consisting of the fibia, which is the bone between your knee and your hip.
The proportions between your tibia and fibia will make it more, or less difficult to perform a good Asian squat. For example, having a long thigh and a short calf will make it much harder to perform an Asian squat. Similarly, if you have long legs and a small torso you will also find it hard to perform an Asian squat.
It is not impossible to do, even if you do have body proportions that are somewhat troublesome for this particular squat. It will only be harder to do if you have exaggerated long-short proportions.
It may seem a little obvious, but if you are able to perform a deep squat, however, you are unable to hold the position for very long then it is simply that you haven’t practiced enough.
Despite how great it would be, you cannot simply become a pro at doing an Asain squat overnight, and you certainly won’t be able to hold it like Asian practitioners who’ve done it their whole lives, just after one go.
It will take several times practicing the Asain squat for your body to get used to doing it, this means your muscles need to get flexible enough to allow for a perfectly deep squat. And once you have achieved this you need to be able to sustain relaxation in the bottom position rather than straining, keeping your muscles tight to keep you from collapsing to the floor.
It is good to practice this daily, you could fit it into your work-out regime, practicing a few sixty-second sets per day, or if you don’t work-out regularly or feel like strictly dedicating your time to it, try to fit it into your daily lifestyle.
You could try doing it while your scouting for good on the bottom shelf that the superstore, or try doing it and holding for a while if you need to pick something up off the floor.
If you have pets, you could try performing an Asian squat to pet them. Doing this regularly should help you see some improvement, and within a couple of weeks, you are sure to start feeling more comfortable with performing the Asian squat.
What are the benefits?
Doing Asian squats can reap many benefits, especially in your health. Let’s look at how they can help you.
- Asian squats will allow you to keep your core muscles engaged, this is because they are used in order to maintain balance and stay upright. Your core muscles are vital in helping you in a great many exercises and having a strong core can be beneficial regardless. Doing these squats helps you train these muscles even while you are sedentary, unlike when you are sitting in a chair. If you can do your activities whilst in a squatted position, give it a try and you may see a great change to your core as you do this more often.
- You can improve your awareness of your own body. This will ripple over to other activities in your daily life, it will help you understand the placement of your hips, knees, torso, and limbs and their placement concerning one another. Providing you with better control over your body.
- If you are pregnant they can be a great help to you. Any squat is very useful for a pregnant woman during labor and delivery, it helps the pelvis to open and assists in the baby’s descent. Like all squats, these squats can be very useful for this, maybe even moreso.
- Asian squats also workout several muscles in the lower body too, and they do so almost effortlessly. When you sit in a deep squat, you help to tone the muscles of your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. All of these muscles are activated to maintain your position and therefore it acts much like a workout for these muscles, just perhaps a little less intense than most other things you would do to tone these muscles.
- They assist with time in the toilet. When you use the restroom in a traditional western toilet, your body is not in the natural position and this can cause you to strain or be sitting on the toilet for long periods to reach your end goal. However, doing squats to go to the bathroom can help open up the colon more, this allows for a faster, more efficient, and less strenuous emptying of the bowels. It is how many of our ancestors went to the bathroom for millions of years, and is how our bodies are designed to do this. This can even be shown in certain appliances you can get that position your body similar to a squat to make going to the bathroom on a western toilet easier.
Can you do it?
There is no reason that you won’t be able to achieve some level of a deep squat with plenty of training. Your biomechanics and mobility will affect how easy or hard it is for you to do.
While Asain populations find it easy to squat not only due to learning from a young age but also due to their biology- often having shorter limb lengths that make a perfect deep squat possible.
Despite this, you can always train yourself to squat deeper. You don’t need to concern yourself with how you look while doing it, but with simply getting your pelvis lower and your weight over the mid-line of your foot.
The main point that people born in more western cultures may struggle with is getting to this while having your feet flat on the floor, doing this will require some work into loosening the muscles around your lower leg and practicing mobility in your ankle joints.
You can do some exercises to prepare your ankles and help them get to the level of mobility you need to achieve this squat; banked ankle distractions can work very well, as well as the Yoga position of the downward dog leg lift can also be useful for expanding your mobility.