We all already know how to squat comfortably. It’s one of those ancient, in-built behaviours that we all still have within us – but the chances are that most of don’t do it anywhere near as much as we should. Just to be clear – we’re not talking here about ‘squats’ – the energetic workout that many of us will be familiar with from our time in the gym. Rather, we’re talking about the less vigorous kind of squatting that we can all do more of as an alternative to sitting conventionally.
Because squatting is actually incredibly good for us, in many different ways. In many areas of the world, it is still a natural part of daily life – but today it is a skill that has been largely forgotten in the west. So, here is our guide to rediscovering the secret art of squatting – and why it is has such an important role to play in keep us strong and healthy.
We are born to do it
Long before we moved into towns and cities, and started sitting on uncomfortable chairs, driving cars and working and eating at tables, we squatted. We would spend a good proportion of our day squatting, and so our bodies really are born to do it. Today, we spend so much of our working lives in chairs, in positions that are incredibly bad for our bodies, so squatting is a very simple, very human thing to do – and a wonderful natural skill to rediscover.
You’ll probably fall over the first time you try and do it
For most westerners, when we squat we try to still stick with what we know. People who are used to spending a large proportion of their daily lives in a chair will usually squat down, but keep their heels off the ground. In this position the legs are bent at around 90º – relatively similar to the position we sit in. The original, more natural squatting position for humans however is with heels down – it will feel odd to begin with (and you’ll probably topple backwards) but try it until you are comfortable. In this position we stretch our backs out more and put less pressure on our feet.
It is a fantastic work out for your core
Try it again, now. How long can you hold the position for? Even in a simple, natural squat, we are really working those core muscles. Compare it to your usual seated position – sat at a desk, our core muscles aren’t engaged at all, but when we squat our obliques, lower back and abs are all working together. And a strong core of course is the secret to better posture, and the correct alignment of most of the major muscle groups in our bodies. So, ditch the plank, and give squatting for a few minutes every day a go instead.
It makes us stronger and more flexible
When we squat, we improve the way our glutes, hips and ankles stretch and move together. When we are sat for long periods in a chair, our muscles relax, and even our bones aren’t worked in the way that they are when we lead a more active lifestyle. Squatting regularly every day counters this, and stretches everything back out again. Our joints are freed up and we are simply stronger and more mobile, particularly in our hips, which can be a big problem area for some people.
It gets the blood pumping
While it might not feel particularly vigorous, squatting is actually a great way of boosting your circulation. When we squat, we encourage our organs to move back into the right positions, and we stimulate our glands and our blood flow to move more freely. By assuming such a natural position, we are essentially making it easier for our bodies to circulate all the most important things it needs to where it needs them most.
It makes us happier
This one might be harder to prove, but in our experience it really does. For us, this is simply the logical outcome of all of the other benefits of squatting: we are happier because we are more flexible and stronger, we’re getting fewer injuries and we’re pumping our blood into places where it was previously restricted.
But squatting also just feels great – and it is a very simple, natural change that we can all make a part of our daily lives.
Jürg Widmer Probst