If you're sitting on the toilet reading this, it's high time you squatted instead.
Though little practiced in the United States, crouching down on the commode is how most of the world has pooped into antiquity. And science is starting to catch up. When sitting on the toilet, with knees at a right angle, your puborectalis muscle, the muscle responsible for continence, relaxes only partially. But in a squatting posture, it releases completely. Basically, humans are designed not to leak, so in an upright position, there is a bend in our digestive tracts between the rectum and anus, that stops us from pooping, much like a bend in a garden hose stops the flow of water. A squat opens the pipes and frees the flow entirely. That's why folks often need to push when sitting.
An Israeli researcher named Dov Sikirov wondered about this and asked groups of study participants to defecate squatting over a container. He compared how long each bowel movement took and the effort required. Sikirov published his results in Digestive Diseases and Sciences and found that, in a squatting posture, subjects required, on average, only one-third the time to garner a movement. Plus, subjects who squatted rated the experience as much easier than did those who sat.
In Japan, researchers took this quite a bit further. For a study published in the journal Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms, six subjects had their rectums filled with a contrast solution that could be seen under X-ray. The subjects then released the fluid from a squatting or a sitting position while being filmed with X-ray video. The videos showed that the anorectal angle increased significantly from 100 degrees to 126 degrees from sit to squat, making defecation much easier in the squat.
I'm eager to put a squat to the test, so I place a simple footstool at the base of the toilet. This elevates my feet eight or so inches off the ground and simulates a squat.
A few days in and the jury is out. All of the studies are spot on. A foot stool makes my morning meditation quicker, more complete, and, yet, effortless. The experience is sublime. No pushing. No waiting. Why poop through perpendicular plumbing? Who knows, I suspect one day footrests will be standard fare on toilets and posterity will scratch their heads at that strange dark time in history when folks sat straight up to poop.