I visited Pakistan for the first time in 2015. My husband’s family is from there, and we were spending ten days split between the luxury of their vacation home in Lahore and the simplicity of my husband’s childhood home in Sialkot. While the Lahore house had WiFi, air conditioning, modern plumbing, and window screens, the Sialkot home gave us mosquitoe bites, intense heat, and traveller’s diarrhoea.
One thing we didn’t have to worry about though were the toilets. They were all standard toilets you would see in any bathroom in the UK. No toilet paper, but there was always a hose handy for you to wash up afterwards. I had heard about these squatting toilets which are common in many Asian countries, but thankfully had not been exposed so far. I mean, who wants to use the bathroom squatting? What if you fall back?
Until we went to my husband’s aunt’s house. I had to use the bathroom and I spot it, the squatting toilet. Nothing to hold on to or keep me from falling into my own waste. I squatted, expecting the worst. What I experienced was the most thorough bowel movement of my life! I probably lost weight and everything. I spoke about it at length to anyone that would listen for weeks after.
Floor-Based Living Benefits
That experience really got me thinking about how little time we actually spend on the floor. When we aren’t standing, we are sitting on a chair that is elevated, or sleeping in a bed that is elevated. Although there has not been much research on the topic, this study showed that people that lived higher off the ground tended to have worse health and mortality outcomes compared to those that lived closer to the ground. It’s interesting to see that the Japanese, who tend lead a mostly minimalist and floor-based lifestyle, have the longest life expectancy according to the Global Health Observatory for every year from 2000 – 2016 with the exception of 2011, when Switzerland had a life expectancy of 0.1 years more (82.6 vs 82.5).
How to Live on the Floor
Floor-based living doesn’t mean you need to get rid of all of your furniture. The key is not to spend all of your time on the floor, but merely to increase the amount of time you spend closer to the ground.
- Bed: consider a minimalist futon. These usually have a simple, low to the ground frame with a mattress that you place over. Minimalist futons are great because:
- They are inexpensive and can be filled with organic, natural or non-toxic materials for cheaper than conventional mattresses
- They are firmer than conventional mattresses, which is better for your back, alignment and posture
- Putting a minimalist futon on the floor allows you to have a fuller range of motion when laying down and getting up, strengthening your back muscles over time
- Seating: minimalist futons can also double as seating. Floor seating is great again for range of motion, alignment and posture and strengthening of the back. You can also use as seating with a low table like one.
- Toilet: although I don’t recommend ripping out your toilet to install a squatting one, devices like allow you to use your conventional toilet in a squatting position, relieving strain on your pubectoralis muscle and giving a clearer passage for stools to pass. Ultimately, more complete bowel movements lead to better digestive and gut health.
Besides the benefits listed above, floor-based living is compatible with a minimalist lifestyle. In my previous post on the 100 things challenge, I talk about the link between physical possessions and overall mental health. Floor-based living eliminates the temptation to store things under the couch, under the bed, under the table, etc, as there is no “under” to place anything. Being on the floor more often also means you are more aware of the space around you, as you are seeing it from a different angle, and helps you to declutter more effectively.
Floor-based living also means you spend more time in positions that are primal, like sitting, squatting and kneeling. Remember that in our modern world, we have forgotten some of our innate behaviours and in doing so, have depleted our health and our understanding of ourselves. In his book, , Phillip Beach explores more on floor-based living and realignment as another step to heal our bodies. It’s really fascinating and I would highly recommend it if you are interested in learning more.
Do you practice floor-based living, and if so, have you found benefits? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.