If you have ever met an Asian, had an Asian friend, or have been to Asia, you would have realized that deep squatting (which most of us dread to even attempt) is an absolutely normal thing for them. They can do it while eating, smoking a cigarette, chit-chatting, playing board games, studying, chopping vegetables, waiting for a bus, using a pan-styled bathroom, and sometimes even just like that. This deep squatting position has numerous health benefits, which is why it is slowly gaining popularity in western countries as well. In this blog, we will brief you about Asian squat and how it is different from Slav squat. We will also tell you why westerners aren’t able to do it so easily. We will also share some helpful tips on how to do Asian squat.
To begin with, let's understand what exactly is an Asian squat.
What is Asian Squat
It is an advanced version of your basic squat. To do Asian squat, you need to squat really deep while keeping your feet flat on the ground. You need the squat until your buttocks are in line with your ankles but not touching the floor. This position requires a tremendous amount of ankle flexibility. It also requires you to balance your body-weight over the midline of your feet so you don’t rock forward or backward. Unless you balance yourself well, you will topple.
You will be surprised to know that the Asian squatting position is considered a ‘resting position’ in non-western countries. While most of us are unable to go down so deep, Asians can be quite comfortable in the full squat for minutes while performing numerous activities. If they don’t find a seat at a bus stop, they squat down to rest. If they get too tired walking or standing and they don’t get a chair to sit, they squat!
Did you know Asian squat is the most relaxing position for the body other than lying down? This is because it is the most natural movement of our body.
When you sit on a chair or a sofa, your hip and ankle muscles get shortened. Since the back of the chair will be supporting your body, your core muscles will not be working too. It isn’t a problem when you sit for a few hours a day. But, if you sit for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, your hip and ankle muscles will tighten and the core muscles will weaken. Tight and weak muscles make you more prone to pain and injuries.
Squatting has always been our fundamental resting position. Early humans and our ancestors used to squat when they needed a break or when they had to wait during hunting. After chairs were invented, people (especially the rich ones) started using them because they were more comfortable. Soon, chairs became status symbols. Western countries started using chairs and seats for almost everything. But, the underdeveloped and developing nations couldn’t afford to have them in every household, especially the rural ones. Other than affordability, the population was (and is) a major problem in these countries. The government cannot simply provide enough chairs at bus stops, railway stations, etc., which is why Asians still squat and they don’t mind it!
Most Asian households, especially in rural areas, still have pan-styled toilets where you need to squat deep to relieve yourself. You can find such toilets in almost all public places, even at airports. Many people prefer using them instead of seat-styled toilets because they do not require any skin contact with the toilet seat, which is hygienically good.
Now that we know what is and how to do Asian squats, let's learn about Slav squat, which is a much-hyped topic these days among fitness enthusiasts.
What is a Slav squat
It is the same as Asian squat. Just that the term was coined a few years ago by a Romanian Teenager who started a Facebook page ‘Squatting slavs in tracksuits’.
The word ‘slav’ is used to refer to people in central and eastern Europe, who speak Slavic languages. Many of these people belong to gopnik culture, which is a subculture of Russia typically consisting of people from the lower class background. These people usually squat down while doing many things such as waiting for a bus stop, taking a cigarette break with friends, etc. This is where the word slav word comes from.
Basically, slav squat and Asian squat are the same thing. They just represent different regions. To know more about slav squat, its origin, its benefits, and its correct technique, read our earlier blog on ‘why and how to slav squat’.
Why westerners do not have squat mobility
That's because we don’t practice it!
Essentially, we all are born with enough ankle flexibility to do slav squat but, since we do not flex our ankle much, those muscles start to tighten with time, and we start to lose our ability to go down on our heels. Bryan Ausinheiler, a Physical Therapist who graduated from the University of California San Francisco has concluded that you need 70 degrees of ankle-flexion angle to be able to squat. He also concluded that most Americans have just 30 degrees of movement. No wonder why we Westerners find it easier to deadlift than to squat.
Some people say squatting is in the genes of Asian and Slavic people. Well, that’s quite debatable. We would rather say that it's the practice that makes full squats much easier for them than for us.
Asians and slavic people start squatting right from their childhood for using toilets. Asian kids see everybody around them squatting for various reasons and soon, they too adopt this habit. This way, they never lose their ankle flexibility and torso balance, which are crucial for squatting.
While Asians have maintained their ankle and hip flexibility quite well for thousands of years, Westerners started losing it as soon as they abandoned the practice of deep squat. We abandoned it for many reasons; comfort and convenience are the major ones. Westerners started seeing squatting as ‘uncivilized’ but Asians never did. If you ever visit China, you would find top businessmen discussing business deals while squatting! Even Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was once photographed squatting on the White House Lawn for taking a picture. This picture received 17000 likes and over 3600 shares in just two days!
How to do the Asian squat?
Keep practicing. That’s the only secret trick you need to know to begin deep squatting.
If you have never done half squats, start doing them first. They will help you understand the form and posture that you need to maintain. If you are already doing half squats, start going deeper every day and balance yourself there. Do not attempt to go all the way down right from day 1. You may sprain your ankle.
Like any other form of exercise, go slow and, if needed, hold on to something to prevent falling backward. Depending on your flexibility, you should be able to sit in a full squat position within 4-6 weeks. Read this blog for a detailed guide on how to regain your squat mobility.
Please note: if you are suffering from knee or back pain or injury, do not attempt Asian or slav squats, as they can worsen your condition.