Body mashed forward and face twisted with concentration, Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” has been frozen mid-ponder for more than a century. If he happens to be frozen mid-poop, too, well, that’s great for his bowels. The Thinker is a poster child for good defecation posture, according to a small study recently published in the journal Techniques in Coloproctology.
Mimicking the 20-foot centerpiece of Rodin’s The Gates of Hell “seems to be a more efficient method for defecation than the sitting position,” write Drs. Shota Takano and Dana Sands, colorectal surgeons at Cleveland Clinic Florida. “This technique may be helpful when retraining patients with constipation.”
Using a radiologic technique called cinedefecography, in which a patient attempts to excrete barium paste while being X-rayed, the researchers were able to compare the typical sitting position to that of The Thinker’s forward hunch.
Rodin once described his statue like this: “What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.” Ideally, on the toilet, you’re aping the angle but not, you know, the clenching. The doctors found that the Rodin posture increased factors like anorectal angle and perineal plane distance, which can be helpful for constipated patients.
With some 25,000 Google results for the search phrase “pooping wrong,” we’ve certainly given the subject a lot of thought. Experiences in toilet squatting can be positive, but claims — some argue that those of us who don’t squat are carrying 20 extra pounds of poop around — are often overblown. It’s important to note that this was a very small study and all participants were constipated; moreover, only half of the 22 Rodin sitters were able to poop the paste completely, so this isn’t likely to settle the eternal question of how best to make ourselves less full of shit.
It could, however, be something to ponder the next time you find yourself alone for a moment.