The Forgotten Floor
4 January 2019
I found myself with an hour or two a week where my hands were engaged but my mind wasn’t—the perfect opportunity to delve into a podcast. I seem to be drawn to one called Mindful Strength, which explores forms of movement and features experts on the latest research in movement science. Among a variety of perspectives, a constant theme comes through …
As a young child in the early 90s, I lived for a few years in Malaysia and had become used to seeing small apartments and modest houses furnished with cheap, but functional, chairs and tables and TVs with brands I hadn’t heard of. Though a visit to one of my uncle’s houses revealed that this style of living had not always been. In my uncle’s house the living room was small and furnished only with a rug and some cushions. There was no table, no chairs and no TV. The bathroom featured a traditional squat toilet; essentially a ceramic lined hole in the ground. I was invited to sit on the ground in the living room where I shared biscuits and cold rose-flavoured cordial. Mum later explained to me that when she first visited Malaysia in the late 70’s that this was a common way for people to live. At the time, this seemed to me to be a primitive way of living.
Looking back, I see that my uncle and his family were actually at the forefront of movement science. The podcast I listen to has voiced recommendations such as walking in bare feet, connecting to the floor and the benefits of squat mobility. My relatives were doing all of these things every day, by going about their usual life. They walked barefoot indoors, and in light sandals when outdoors. The absence of furniture meant they never lost the ability to sit on the ground; a natural posture of young children. Even a visit to the bathroom required a full squat. They didn’t go to gyms or yoga classes. They didn’t go jogging or exercise for the sake of exercising. Despite this, parents and grandparents were able to move in a way that it is rarely seen in an adult in the Western world.
I have no plans to remodel our bathroom, but there is nothing stopping me from spending more time on the floor. Playing with my daughter, tying my shoes and folding the washing are activities I can easily perform at ground level. As this act becomes more habitual, I can focus not just on where I sit but how I stand up again. While my two year old daughter bounces up in a way that appears free from the influence of gravity, I still use my hands to assist my legs into a position where they begin to function. While still difficult, my legs are slowly remembering what they could once do, but my bigger motivation is the hope that my daughter’s legs will never forget.