In theory, if you can sit in a chair, or on any other surface, you can squat. That’s what a squat is: sitting, without the chair underneath you.
I can sit in a chair.
I can sit on a box.
I can even sit on the bottom stair.
This is beginning to sound like a Dr. Suess book.
I can sit sit sit every place and every where.
Ok. Where was I? Theory.
In theory if I can sit on a stair or a chair then I can squat.
The Problem With Theory
The problem with theory is that we don’t live life in theory. We live life in practice.
Although I can sit on all of these surfaces, I cannot squat very well.
Correction: I do not squat very well. Currently.
Whether I can remains to be seen.
I’m working on my squat.
I work on it a lot.
Wall sit squats.
Wall ball squats.
Here I go with Dr. Seuss again.
When I try to squat, my knees often freeze in place, my hips don’t go back, and my torso collapses like a house of cards — or like a sukkah in a strong wind.
It’s Not About Flexibility
For years, various trainers told me it was a flexibility issue: I have tight hips.
It sounds reasonable until you consider that I can sit on a box or on a chair or on a stair. I can even get into a squat position with my back on the floor and my feet on a wall. If my hips can do that, then in theory they can squat.
It’s not an issue of hip flexibility.
The issue is stability.
Holding the ground with my feet. Supporting myself through the core.
The body is a system of systems, and the primary job of any system is to preserve its safety.
If the body doesn’t feel that it can support itself in a squat, it will freeze. The nervous system won’t allow the body to go where it doesn’t feel safe.
The underlying principle here is that ability and mobility depend on stability.
So how do you get stability?
In the physical body, it starts with building strength through the feet and ankles and the core.
There’s a non-physical element to it as well, both with respect to squats and the broader application of this pattern.
The Lesson From the Sukkah
For the lesson, we can look to the holiday of Sukkot, which ends today.
The sukkah is a structure that, on the surface, appears to be high in mobility but lacking stability. It’s a fragile hut, open to the elements of nature. Yet despite its vulnerability to easy destruction, it served as a stable home of the Jewish people through their years wandering the desert.
Where did this stability come from?
It came from faith. As long as the people remembered their faith, they felt stable. In the moments when they lost their faith, everything fell apart. They lost their footing and committed grave sins.
As I’ve worked on my squats, I’ve noticed a remarkable phenomenon. When I have a trainer give me even a fingertip touch to my fingertips, I’ve been able to squat lower. There’s no logical reason that fingertip to fingertip should impact a squat, but it does. It’s an energy; a tiny bit of touch that reminds me I’m supported.
Both Sukkot and squats teach us this lesson:
When we trust that we are supported, we feel more confident to take a risk, to take on more challenge, to increase our load, and to move into new situations.