There's a Roman museum near here that has a model barracks toilet which is basically like a modern compost loo - it's like an enclosed bench with holes to defecate through. I guess you might be supposed to stand on it but it's certainly not presented that way.
I've seen toilets in medieval château and castles with wooden seats on a knee height enclosure too. Doesn't appear to be an invention that followed the flush toilet. Nor can I see how a flush toilet would need a change in posture.
You're definitely correct. South East Asia (at the minimum) has millions of flushable porcelain squat toilets. :)
>the Roman toilets were probably elevated to raise them above open sewers, rather than for sitting.
However in the image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ostia-Toilets.JPG accompanying one can see that this would mean that the Romans were wasting a lot of well prepared stone building the toilets twice as high as needed (note the extra stone below the opening).
One thought was that this could be an economy of parts, the "seat" and front pieces appear same-dimensioned - but then I noticed that the bottom part has a corner that the top part didn't and so in this instance that theory appears unsound.
Given the Romans amazing engineering prowess I can't see them wasting materials like this in order to make the toilets harder to use.
http://books.google.com/books?id=RIRlPwAACAAJ&printsec=f... appears to be the major ref on Wikipedia and is widely cited in scientific papers but unfortunately I can't find a place to read it online (and don't have a copy!).
Edit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0715638505?ie=UTF8&tag=... "Latrinae Et Foricae: Toilets in the Roman World" clearly, to me, shows a Roman toilet as a seat on the front (my posterior would fit but my feet wouldn't fit either side of the hole to squat). Review - http://bloggingpompeii.blogspot.com/2009/12/latrinae-et-fori...
Perhaps the Romans started out squatting, and later changed to sitting. I predict this is the point in time when the rise of the Romans stopped and their fall began. (Tongue-in-cheek.)
It was like an awakening, I had not realized how uncomfortable are our western toilets until this experience.
In public toilets squat toilets are still more hygienic to use than sitting on the western toilet seats.
Moreover if the flush doesn't work, which usually would be the case, you can always pour a bucket of water.
For public toilets, I actually preferred the squatting version: You do not have to touch them. Just remember to bring your own toilet paper.
(I do recommend dry practice.)
If your shins are normal, though, just work on the leg strength to control your descent, and the ankle forward flexibility required to shift your center of gravity the inch or so foward to compensate for going from the balls of your feet to the whole foot.
Turns out, you only pull your pants down to your knees, so the area between your feet is unobstructed for peeing.
Jesus, what the hell is wrong with this guy? Or maybe I'm the freak, but I don't spend ten minutes on the toilet. Usually it takes 30s-2m to do my business.
Maybe he should consider a change in diet?
I looked him up, assuming he might be an old guy, but he appears to be early-to-mid 20s, meaning that spending ten minutes just to take a crap on a regular basis is not normal.
Thankfully, I don't think children are especially susceptible.
Again, do not read on the toilet seat!
Also you can't read magazines or check email while you're "perched" so maybe that has something to do with it. ;)
Perhaps if you have a diet that consists mainly of cheese.
"Approaching 30" is a bit early for your colon to start clogging up... you might want to get that checked out.
The use of western toilets reduces our ability to reach the full squat position and some reckon this is why pulled hamstrings and achilles injuries are more common.
When western people squat, we tend to go up on our toes to reach full depth due to our inflexibility gained from using toilets.
This inflexibility changes the way we do things- when a western adult wants to pick up something from the floor they bend over at the hip. Watch a young child that has recently started to walk do it- they do a full squat with their heals on the ground!
The toilet was never produced.
I do believe I have seen somewhere a flyer by the British National Health Service advocating putting one's feet on a (step)stool in order to achieve a more optimal position when using a traditional toilet. So perhaps his legacy lives on.
(I am too scared to try and google for proof).
I haven't seen the NHS flyer but I have seen a photo of a sign from Japan indicating that this is a good idea (also that you should rest your elbows on your knees and bulge your stomach out). I think it certainly helps things (this has got to be the oddest thread I've seen on HN in a while).
I do it as a weight lifting exercise three times a week. Please squat below parallel (i.e. hip below knees, the bone in your leg should be below parallel to the ground). High squatting above parallel can wreck your knees.
I wonder if this contributes to the higher rates of hepatitis and related illnesses in Asia -- and that in turn to the custom of removing shoes before entering households.
Removing shoes before entering households is standard practice in quite a few (most?) European countries as well, so I imagine it is not related to higher rates of hepatitis and subsequent fear of infection.
(Frankly, from a subjective viewpoint, I consider this custom to be related mostly to common sense. It seems mind-boggling to me not to remove shoes before entering your home. Not only does it keep your home cleaner, but it is more comfortable to boot.
The only valid exception would be not asking guests to remove shoes, since they may not be comfortable with that.)
While you never know what's on the streets, well-off areas of the US generally have clean, dry walkways -- it's rare for sewage to be tracked about. We have comparatively little dirt/mud/feces-transmitted disease -- such as typhoid, hepatitis, cryptosporidiosis, or various other waterborne parasites.
And, North American children face rising rates of allergies and autoimmune disorders, which, if the hygiene hypothesis is to be believed, are made worse by too little exposure to mild pathogens from unclean environments.
So the most health-promoting custom might vary a lot by region.
That said, I quite often take my shoes off at work as well.
I always figured it was because I was used to doing it my way, not because it was easier. I didn't switch for comfort reasons, and certainly I never dreamed it might prevent hemorrhoids later in life!
At home we always install a home-made bidet: usually a water hose connected to the shower somehow with a mechanism to turn it on/off.
When I'm in a public place, I try to avoid using public bathrooms. Sometimes I can't avoid it, like when I'm at work.
Example: I was told that upon seeing a bench, whereas westerners would normally sit on it, a Chinese person will squat on it. This supposedly also makes their legs much stronger.
Can anyone confirm this?
I read somewhere that the typical Westerner, or someone not used to squatting for extended periods, will squat on the balls of their feet. Apparently this can tire you out quickly.
I'm embarrassed that I can't quite manage to squat on my heels either, despite being South Asian.
My calf muscles don't allow my thighs to press against my calves along their length as in images of people squatting full footed. The lever created means a huge amount of pressure on my knees like when you use a bar under a claw-hammer to increase upward force. I've tried squatting flat footed and holding onto something - it's very painful on the front of my legs and my thighs don't go closer than about 15deg from my calves.
I crouch down a lot as I spend a lot of time next to tables talking to people sitting.
I also can't sit cross-legged comfortable, never could. It made school assemblies hard for me I have to hold my legs crossed in an elevated position (knees away from the floor) which then adds pressure on the buttocks.
Perhaps it's just me. I don't consider myself to appear obviously anatomically dissimilar to those around me.
FWIW I found regular sitting toilets in most homes and establishments that I visited. The "squatter" was actually not common in the parts I traveled (25 years ago and mostly in Seoul). I think I used one twice in 2 years.
I've seen people go from standing to squatting position (not in a toilet) and they don't go through an intermediate ball-of-foot-squatting phase.
By the way, practice makes perfect in squatting as in every thing else.
I observe football players have difficulty in squatting on heels.
It is certainly a lot healthier for your knees than squatting on the balls of your feet, if only because your knees stay roughly on the same vertical as your toes. This is old powerlifter wisdom, and anyone with a knee injury can tell you first-hand. I can't squat on the balls of my feet without my right knee squealing in pain. Squatting on my heels is, at least, tolerable.
I know I don't do enough stretching, though. It's just frustrating because my hamstrings never seem to improve, and as soon as I stop stretching, I go back to base (about 12" from touching my toes while standing).
In rural midwest US, the instead-of-sit squat is called a "hunker". Yes, folks talk about "hunkering" and will say "come over her and hunker with us for a while". "Hunker down" is different.
> I was told that upon seeing a bench, whereas westerners would normally sit on it, a Chinese person will squat on it.
I've never seen anyone hunker on a bench - they always hunkered on the ground.
But things seem to change a little bit. The white collars think it looks strange. They would rather stand than squat.
Thanks for the post. I don't feel ashamed when waiting for a bus with squat now.
I've tried myself to squat while hiking outdoors and I keep falling over.
I've been balancing on toilet seats for twenty years. I've broken a few, and dislodged my share of toilets from their anchors to considerable expense. The stability, comfort and ease of Nature's Platform is a great relief.
Charlie Walters, M.B.A.
Boone, North Carolina
AFAIK also muslims prefer squating over sitting as it's the suggested practice, also they don't pee standing up (I think this is due to health reasons as well but can be about being clean,not sure).
I always prefer squating over sitting however when you get old generally you need to sit as squatting is literally requires effort, many elderly people sits due to this.
I can't imagine squating in a normal sit toilet, that's just dangerous.
Only if you have trouble supporting your bulk, be it due to obesity or lack of muscle conditioning. Or balance issues, obviously.
Edit: the trick to perching on various narrow surfaces, for me, is to have the heel on one side an the ball of the foot on the other. "Gripping" as it were.
Does is occur to anyone else that instead of squatting precariously on a sit toilet, risking a fall and backsplash on the feet, one could simply put a stack of phonebooks or a kiddie stool in front of the toilet, and then put your feet on it while you take a dump? Same angle for the core/legs, but less danger.
We squat because that's the cleanest way to release waste. We also squat when we urinate, that way no urine is splashed back to your pants, which happens when you stand and urinate.