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Sit or Squat? New Toilet Design Encompasses Best of Both Worlds [VIDEO]

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Aug 05, 2013 04:51 PM EDT
Children look at a statue of a man responding to the call of nature at the Toilet Culture Park in Suwon, about 46 km south of Seoul, November 22, 2012.
A British design student has re-invented the washroom, so to speak, by coming up with a novel toilet design that incorporates the natural benefits attributed to having a bowel movement while squatting and the comfort and convenience of a Western-style toilet. (Photo : Reuters )

A British design student has re-invented the washroom, so to speak, by coming up with a novel toilet design that incorporates the natural benefits attributed to having a bowel movement while squatting and the comfort and convenience of a Western-style toilet.

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Peter Codling, a recent graduate of London's Royal College of Art, calls his novel, high-tech toilet design the Penseur. The toilet employs modern creature comforts like a bidet with adjustable water pressure while situating the body in the most natural position to empty its bowels.

"You have a muscle that's connected to your pelvis that in a sitting position cinches closed your colon and stops you from going completely and quickly, as you should do. In the squatting position this muscle is relaxed and you can go and your colon is straightened, which enables you to go quickly and much more completely," Codling told Reuters.

Codling said coming up with a design that was functional yet comfortable and not intimidating to the Western user was a challenge.

"To put someone in a new position like that and to have it comfortable was a tricky thing to do. So I've had to iterate many times to finally get the position that worked comfortably and I had my 83-year-old grandmother in this yesterday, so I'm quite certain that it works for a larger age range than a current sitting toilet."

Toilet design is one of many marked differences between Eastern and Western culture, with the squat style being prevalent in many Asian countries.

Codling is not the first to attempt to bring a more Eastern approach to the Western-style toilet. A product called Squatty Potty by the Utah-based designer Robert Edwards, is made to work with Western-style toilets by elevating the feet off the ground and mimicking a natural squatting position.

"The modern toilet has been sold to us as civilized, but the straining that sitting causes is not healthy," Edwards told the NPR health blog Shots last year. "Squatting, on the other hand, or getting closer to squatting with the help of the Squatty Potty, can end hemorrhoids, prevent colon disease, improve pelvic floor issues, and offer numerous other benefits," the blog said, referring to Edwards.

There is not an abundance of medical evidence touting the health benefits of squatting, but there is a large and perhaps growing number of people who see the benefits of the squatting position. Edwards told NPR that without any advertising he sold 10,000 of his Squatty Potty devices. And the endurance of the squat-style toilet alongside the long history and availability of the Western-style toilet provides enduring cultural evidence that there is some good reason to squat instead of sit.

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