You probably don't give much thought to the position you strike while sitting on your toilet seat for a poop.
But according to the medical blog Evidently Cochrane, how you sit really matters for your bowel health. You might even want to invest in a "stool stool," pelvic physiotherapist Elaine Miller explains:
Sitting with hips at 90 degrees means the puborectalis muscle is not relaxed, which means the kink in the upper rectum does not straighten out. Raising the feet, so that the hips are flexed beyond 90 degrees straightens out where the colon and rectum join and allows poo to pass more easily. You can use a couple of toilet rolls to rest your feet on, or a children’s kick stool, or buy a specially made stool stool. Leaning on the elbows and making a "moo" (or other) sound reduces the urge to strain.
Physiotherapists commonly teach people to imagine they are widening their waist and pushing their tummy forward, like a barrel or like Shrek, and asking them to pay attention to their anus as they do so. Lean forwards and rest elbows on knees, almost like the crash position on an aeroplane. The anal sphincter should relax, and this basic biofeedback can be very helpful, and can save the person from assuming the recovery position post-poo. A motion-less position…
So the idea here is that you want to take some of the pressure off the area around the anus. Sitting too long in the wrong position, in addition to straining while on the loo, increases the risk of inflamed hemorrhoids, prolapse, and vaginal varicose veins (yes, apparently those exist).
Another favorite (and very colorful) warning about poop position comes from the author A.J. Jacobs. In his book, Drop Dead Healthy, he talks to a colon and rectal surgeon who warns him to keep reading material out of the bathroom, lest it encourages the author to stay seated longer than he has to.
Taking the advice to the extreme, Jacobs invests in Nature's Platform, a contraption you can fit on top of your toilet to help you squat instead of sitting. While the platform seems intriguing, Miller's suggestion of a couple of toilet rolls should do the trick.
To learn more about the complexities of poop, read our explainer.