May 3, 2013


The virtues of the squat toilet, and why we need not be deprived in the West!

OK; I sense a thread of scatology in this week’s posts. As this is what’s happening, we go with it.

As an aside have you noticed how many new agers talk about “I accept reality” or “I deal with reality”. Isn’t the thread of aversion (dosa, Pali) clear in these statements? I was thinking about this a while ago and I decided the only stance to adopt is “I relish what happens!“. Easier written/said than done, of course, but I orient myself in that direction.

So, today’s post is about toilets; this one below is similar to the one you see every day:

A mute accusation

Now, isn’t there something unbalanced, top-heavy, about that design? Anyhow, forget that: to use this, you must sit down on it. And be aware that for all of human history, like our diet—we did things a certain way, we ate a certain way, and we all used to defecate in the squatting position. Why should we care about this? Because, if the research is to be believed, around the globe, people who use squat toilets suffer a much lower incidence of bowel cancer. A number of reasons are ascribed to these findings, but the one I find most convincing is that the squat position straightens the rectum and abdominal pressure is naturally increased; both aspects facilitate the voiding process. Incomplete emptying of the rectum is thought to be a significant factor contributing to increased risk of bowel cancer.

And if you look down the images, you will see the mechanics of the rectum-straightening mentioned; and as an aside, squatting is one of the few methods I know to actually relax the pelvic floor. The capacity to both be able to contract the pelvic floor at will, and relax it at will, is essential.

OK, that’s the quasi-medical reason set out of the way: what other reasons might one have? For me, it’s ankle and hip/lower back flexibility: in my squat toilet setup, the feet supports are horizontal; in most of the commercial versions, the feet angle is less than 90 degrees (just because people have such tight ankles these days). I will append the link to the New Zealand site where I bought my plans below, but first, this is what my setup looks like:

Where has my cursor gone? Ah: back again. This is what the device looks like when stowed against the back wall; visitors need not use, and the device can be slid forward out of the way to clean the bathroom floor easily. The next image shows the device in the deployed position: simply slide forward ~200mm:

Ready for use

Now, as I set this bathroom up for my Mother (who has never used it!), I have safety rails that are just out of shot, to the RHS; this makes getting into position a simple step up action. The feeling of adopting the full squat first thing in the morning is extremely pleasant, and I find it immensely grounding in the body.

I will skip the details of the elimination process, except to say that you will find that you will not have time to read anything on this kind of toilet. The days of waiting for your loved one to stop reading the New Idea article on why one of the Kardashian sisters is once again taking up too much oxygen from the rest of us are over: the elimination process is complete in a very brief period indeed.

Now, a favourite Zen saying is “When chopping wood, just chop wood”; and I add, “When pooping, just poop”—not as elegant, you may argue, but 100% congruent with the endless theme of mindfulness that Zen advocates. And how many of us attend to the sensations of elimination? And could this aversion be a contributing factor to the many bowel-related problems westerners suffer?

Anyhow, I am a believer, and I built this toilet about five months ago, and have been using it continuously since. I bought my plans HERE. And if any of you are planning a retreat in Thailand or Cambodia, getting used to the squat toilet here at home is a good idea.

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