You Should Squat!
While many are told by doctors, physical therapists, even trainers(!) say that squatting is dangerous and they should be avoided, there are some real physiological consequences that must be faced when following such short sighted advice.
First and foremost, when it comes to squatting, if you can’t – you must! Having spent 18 years of my life in the fields of orthopedic rehabilitation and sports conditioning, I can assure you that anyone who was injured performing a squat movement and did not learn to squat correctly and/or develop adequate strength in the pattern is but a re-injury waiting to happen! Just look at what it takes to get into your car – you must open the door and perform the equivalent of a single legged squat with a lateral shift and a twist, particularly if you own a sports car. All the while, you are being told to avoid an opportunity to reestablish optimal motor skills and strength in what can surely be considered key movement pattern in anyone’s life, even today!
Whenever you injure yourself, an electrical charge is created in the injured tissues; often referred to as the healing current of injury. This is one of the mechanisms by which the body knows where to send the repair materials. Within 24 hours, fibroblast cells start laying down collagen, being guided by micro-currents called streaming potentials. Movement of the injured tissues initially stimulates the production of such micro-currents and they guide incoming fibroblasts as to how to align the new collagen fibers in the healing wound. Therefore, from a wound healing perspective, it is important for anyone that has been injured while performing a squatting activity to begin carefully loading the tissues in a as close a pattern as possible to that of the injury; any C.H.E.K practitioner can safely instruct you. Failure to return to squatting as soon as possible only results in a weak wound repair and a greater likelihood that you will injure yourself again, when you have to squat and least expect it!
SQUATTING – GOOD FOR YOUR INSIDES!
While most of you are not likely to have thought of the squat exercise as being beneficial to digestion and elimination, I would like to point out a few unique anatomical features of the human being in this regard. First of all, human beings are the only animal that must push feces up hill. In our natural environment, where we were squatting repeatedly throughout the day as dictated by a ground-based living environment, this was not a problem because of our anatomical design. Whenever we squatted to work, socialize or to defecate, we would naturally squat until our hands reached the ground (since that’s were everything was!) or until our torso was fully relaxed and supported by our thighs (Figure 1). The full squat results in compression in the lower abdomen from the thigh; the right thigh will compress the cecum (the origin of the colon), mechanically pushing the feces up hill into the transverse colon, while the left thigh compresses the descending colon, moving feces into the sigmoid colon and ultimately the rectum.
With this understanding in mind, it is not surprising that many early naturopathic physicians attributed the massive increase in constipation in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to Thomas Crapper, often mistakenly thought to be the inventor of the modern day seated toilet; Thomas Crapper was actually a plumber that popularized the toilet but didn’t invent it. To combat the fact that the modern toilet doesn’t require a full squat, and therefore doesn’t facilitate evacuation of the colon, Colon Hygenists recommend the use of a footstool ranging from 6-14” in height (1). The addition of the full squat to your exercise program, along with a footstool can dramatically improve digestion and elimination. The reason I say “digestion” and elimination is that when the body is chronically constipated, the entire system gets backed up, literally from stomach to anus; unfortunately many people’s mouths keep going in spite of messages from within suggesting otherwise! When the intestinal tract becomes backed up, the stomach is forced to hold onto its contents, often leading to reflux and heartburn and poor digestion.
EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM BREATHING SQUATS
Digestion and elimination are further facilitated by the full squat as a result of both pressure changes in the abdominal and thoracic cavities and improved motility of organs. Whenever you repeatedly perform the full squat, a pressure wave is created by the thighs compressing the abdominal viscera and by the action of the diaphragm as you breathe. This pressure wave coupled with the mechanical action of the thighs literally mobilizes the viscera and pumps blood and lymphatic fluids as well as mechanically aiding the intestinal system. By using “Breathing Squats”, you can also facilitate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is also called the anabolic or digestive nervous system because it regulates these activities. Implementing PNS stimulating activities like breathing squats are probably more important today than every because modern life is not only stressful, we are eating a tremendous amount of processed foods that contain nervous system stimulants such as caffeine and sugar. Caffeinated foods, beverages and many processed foods in general are powerful stimulators of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which acts as the functional antagonist to the PNS. Too much SNS activity results in poor recovery from exercise, poor digestion and poor elimination (“Flatten Your Abs Forever!” video)!
Try some breathing squats: Standing with good upright posture, take a deep belly breath and simply begin the squat from the hip, lowering yourself as far as possible (no load on the body!) or until your torso rests on your thighs. As you lower your body, slowly release the air through your nose; take four seconds to lower your body as you breath out. At the bottom of the squat (torso resting on thighs if you can), pause for a second and begin inhaling through your nose. Make sure that you rise for four seconds, with a brief pause at the top before breathing in as you lower for the next four count. As you become more efficient, slow the squat down to six, or even eight seconds. Slower squats will be even more energizing to the body, as slow movements allow chi (also called Prana or life-force energy) to move faster through the body. Try starting your day with a few minutes of breathing squats and build up to as many as 100 in a row. Progress slowly so you don’t get muscle soreness and so them in a quiet area where you can relax and focus on your breathing. In just a few days, you will notice improved vitality and, you may find your bowel habits improving too!
- Achieve Maximum Health by David Webster