Have you heard of Asian squatting? It is, apparently, the RIGHT kind of squatting, just like squatting to go to the toilet is, ahhh, much healthier for you. This post phrases it nicely:
Get this, when you squat, a bend between your rectum and anus elongates, allowing for a complete evacuation of the bowels. Normal defecation methods cause this bend to be at a 90 degree angle, analogous to putting a “kink” in a hose. This then prohibits proper evacuation of the bowels which can be detrimental to our health.
Now, granted, most of us are unlikely to give up the comfort of sitting on the loo when we do our number twos, but you know what else this kind of squatting is great for? Your knees, as it turns out. This hilarious video illustrates how keeping your heels down reduces strain on your patellar ligament:
We like a bit of squatting in yoga. Because, you know, it's GOOD for you. Your digestion, we have talked about. Maybe we won't talk too much more about that, OK?
And then there is the strength you develop in your legs and butt from squatting, especially squats like the aptly named Awkward Pose (also known as Utkatasana or Chair Pose). This is a wonderful pose (when done right) to strengthen your upper back, buttocks, and thighs. And if you do it right (I know I go on about this a bit, but technique makes the difference between help and harm in this pose) you will also strengthen and mobilise your ankles and stabilise your knees. Stress and adrenal fatigue can weaken the ligaments in your knees, leading to injury, and apart from appropriate stretching, the other thing you can do to protect them is appropriate strength work.
A good Utkatasana can create happy knees.
As you squat lower, it becomes more about flexibility. Take Malasana or Garland Pose, the classic Asian squat. You need a great deal of flexibility in ankles, knees and hips to do this comfortably. There is evidence that being able to squat in this way, and doing so regularly, decreases your risk of a debilitating hip fracture in later life. In Beijing, where people are becoming increasingly urbanised, sitting on chairs more, and squatting less, the rate of hip fractures is on the up.
I will be sharing good squatting technique in my next post, so stay tuned. I know you can't wait to get your squat on this year!