Did you know that squatting is your natural version of sitting? Before chairs, squatting was a natural position to rest, give birth, cook, eat, create art and take a bowel movement. Sitting in chairs is a fairly new phenomenon compared to how long humans have been squatting.
I remember as a new mom years ago I would try to get my toddler boys to sit in little Ikea chairs I had bought for them thinking how cute it would be, but they never would. My boys would always opt for the floor and would squat while playing. I don’t think it’s our natural inclination to sit in chairs.
Your ability to squat can determine your ability to eliminate, detox, move your spine and strengthen your pelvic floor. We rarely think about squatting as a part of our everyday movement medicine, but the truth is you really can’t function well without it.
Squatting may be more important than we thought. It’s essential for many bodily movements and functions, like hip mobility, circulation, organ function, fluid movement, pelvic floor strength, for lifting restrictions, elimination, spinal and lymphatic circulation and pumping nutrition throughout the body.
According to Katy Bowman in, “Move Your DNA”,
“Squatting is a non-negotiable ingredient to improving issues with the gut, pelvis, hips and knees. The problem, you see, is not the squat but that we haven’t squatted for the bulk of our lives.”
Sitting in chairs for long periods of time has recently been proven to be more hazardous to your health than smoking. This is a big deal. One reason for this could be that sitting actually makes it so your body no longer has to hold itself up anymore, which means your postural muscles stop working for you. Over time if you sit in the same position enough your body begins to conform into whatever position you sit most in. This creates lots of restrictions, which can lead to stagnation and disease.
I’ve found that sitting on the floor from time to time can actually stimulate your posture muscles enough to start working again. Although it may be uncomfortable at first over time your body gets stronger and you get used it it. In addition to this, working on your squat every day will benefit your health greatly and get you moving in the right direction. Your body needs variety, different positions as well as circulation through walking.
My journey with the squat has been 20 years in the making. It’s only the last 3 years that I’ve been able to really make any headway with it. Up until recently, I had limited myself in my range of motion in my squats, accepting that my knee and ankle were restricted in ways that I would just have to live with for the rest of my life.
A little history on my body…
As an athlete, i’ve experienced total knee reconstruction, a spinal stress fracture, two ankle surgeries and three broken ankles. As a mom, I’ve experienced two child births, an epidural that came with intense digestive distress afterwards, diastasis recti (separation of the rectus abdominis facia) , disbiosis and a disc bulge in the SI/L5 region. After all this, most would consider it a miracle that I can even do a deep squat much less live without restriction and pain.
I started to make movement apart of my day by incorporating my pre-squat exercises which are essential if you sit most of the day and wear any shoes with rigidity and height to them.
Here’s some you can start with…
After this I began to squat with an object elevating my heals slightly off of the floor in order to get my hips lower to the ground without tucking my pelvis. Since I have quite a lot of restriction in my ankle and knee this helps my hips get the full range of motion they need for circulation and mobility. Unweighted squats, because my heals are not touching the floor.
If your pelvis tends to tuck under when you squat try this exercise to repattern your squat then when the pelvis is where it needs to be try your squat again.
Walking with a thin sole that allowed my toes and feet to spread as I walked helped me open my restricted ankle naturally. Along with doing daily calf stretching and spinal decompression stretching. After this it was much easier to squat like I did when I was a kid, getting on the floor more often and walking with more awareness.
I started to park really far away from my destination and would walk. Even if it mean I would have to carry heavy items or groceries to my car a little further. As well, I’d walk to the bank, grocery store, shops, work and restaurants. Even if it took more time out of my day, that just meant I wouldn’t need to spend that time on a machine doing cardio, etc. Plus it was way more enjoyable and I could make it a part of my day.
I began squatting over the toilet with the help of a Squaty potty. I would squat in the morning to wake my body up, during the day while using my computer or coaching clients and at night to unwind my body at the end of the day. I continued to do my pre-squat work which involved my regenerative exercises (SI joint and hip mobility exercises) and spinal decompression stretches to release any restrictions in the facial chain, specifically the extensors.
This allowed me to settle down into my squat much more comfortably over time. As well, get lower in my hips and deeper in my knee and ankle bend without losing balance or stopping short.
In addition to all of this I slowly worked back to wearing shoes with minimal soles. I was always barefoot when I did gymnastics as well as being barefoot every summer when I was a kid. It felt so natural to go back to this way of being.
During the summer I wore very thin soled workout sandals that would allow me to work the muscles of my feet and feel the surface of the ground better. I walked over pebbles, rocks, grass and concrete. This helped my body and nervous system begin to adapt to different surfaces and absorb the ground with more awareness. As well, it allowed my hips to release because my feet where able to do their job. I also started to work on getting up off of the floor without using my hands. Like this exercise below…
Here I’m working my hip mobility in both internal and external rotation. This really helps to integrate muscles in the hip that have not been turning on as well as make space in the pelvis.
I've broken my ankle three times both in high school and college and the restriction as a result had had a direct effect on my back presenting itself as a disc bulge, because my body had to I adapt to the restriction in the ankle over time.
I use the sumo squat exercise below to activate my outer hips to support bringing my knees out slightly so I'm better able to lift the chest more upright and this helps with ankle mobility.
As I was able to be more present with my gait and squat, I was able to even out my ankle flexion on both sides which made walking, running, squatting and jumping much more pleasant and my back pain free.