A few years ago I visited Japan and enountered my first non-Western toilet on a regional train. Not only did I struggle at using 'squatty potty', it was even harder in a moving train. Perfecting and holding a full, deep squat with heels on the floor became my physical focus of that year. The deeper my squat became, the more I felt new muscles in my pelvis that I had no idea existed!
Squatting is a fundamental human movement and helps to maintain a healthy pelvic floor with core stability. As we squat, the pelvic floor has to expand like a suspension bridge to support us, meaning we have to let go of stress-holding in that area. Regularly practicing a full squat is a great way to release tension in the pelvic floor. It's also a great way to build hip strength if you have ever been pregnant.
As we spend more time in chairs with our knees and ankles fixed at 90 degree angles, squats become important for foot and knee health so that our body understands it can still move those joints deeply. We can forget about this until small children come into our lives and we realize that we don't feel confident squatting down to pick up the child from the floor. Not only are we lacking hip strength, there's a general inflexiblity in the lower joints of the body.
Squatting, and the muscles required to do one are important for aging well and not succumbing to a 'falling-and-I-can't-get-up' scenario. I'm an advocate of an unweighted squat, meaning just your body weight on these joints is sufficient. We're all shaped differently with different movement pasts, so I'm also more free form on how wide the feet are and if the legs are turned out or not. If your ankles are tight and you have a hard time keeping your heels down, hold onto something and place a towel or wedge under your heels. You can also try stretching your calves first to see if that helps your heels stay down. My favorite way:
You can deepen your squat if you understand that your bones spiral as you descend and ascend. If these bones didn't pivot and move, we would just toppple over. Feeling them move, and even coaxing your muscles with your hands, can remind your body that we're always in rotation and that twisting can allow for deeper movement and more core engagement.
Squatting is a phenomenal way to ground yourself and feel like you're connecting downward instead of holding the weight of the world on your shoulders. It doesn't matter how deep or how perfect your squat is, just try to drop down towards the earth and feel how you are supported. Feeling this sensation can help alleviate stress and relax the body. Feel how much your life can improve by doing a squat a day!