I recommended lunch yoga as a “little challenge” that everyone should try in a podcast interview with Katie Elliot recently, and I’ve been mulling over this suggestion ever since, trying to figure out why the idea of lunch yoga feels so radical. And I think I’ve figured out what’s so hard about lunch yoga.
But first, let’s get our terms straight. Lunch yoga is simply doing yoga at lunchtime. You don’t have to balance your salad bowl on your thighs in chair position in order to do lunch yoga.
In January, I decided to squeeze a regular yoga class into my lunch break. I wanted to break up the day and figure out how to fit more activity into a work schedule that involves a lot of sitting. (Because I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, let’s just call this a “fresh start effect inspired” plan.)
Before my new January routine began, I would normally take ~10–15 minutes for lunch (unless it was a lunch meeting, in which case I was working so I could take as long as I wanted). Each day I would make the calculation around noon about how much time I could spare for lunch, and each day I came to the same conclusion: as little as possible. I mastered the art of running downstairs to grab a salad to go and bringing it back up to my desk to eat while hunched over my computer.
My workload was preventing me from getting a real break
But I’m supposed to get a lunch hour! My workload was preventing me from getting a real break, which of course has all sorts of negative implications for productivity later in the day and health in the long term. I figured I could still take ~10–15 minutes to eat, but use the rest of the hour to go to a yoga class. Then I could reap the benefits of better focus, more energy, increased productivity — all while staying within my allotted lunch hour.
I felt guilty about my lunch yoga
The logic is all there. Lunch yoga should be excellent for my health, my mood, and even my work. But when I started telling people about my wonderful new tradition, I realized that I felt guilty about my lunch yoga. It felt (and still feels) like a luxury I don’t deserve. I never actually feel like I have 45 minutes to spare. Still, what’s so hard about lunch yoga, I found, is not actually finding the time. It’s not the activity itself that’s so hard (I’m not attempting anything like this handstand scorpion pose — though if you’re made of string cheese, you could try it).
The hard part about lunch yoga is feeling comfortable allowing myself to do it, and feeling comfortable justifying it to others.
I realized that I feel insecure about lunch yoga because of the assumptions that go along with the go-go-go culture we’ve created for ourselves (which I myself play into, no doubt). Suddenly it feels like doing very basic well-being exercises gives the illusion that you have too much time on your hands, and that your productivity must be suffering accordingly.
And so I’m writing this in an attempt to justify my lunch yoga, and to encourage you to join me. The trick, I think, is to get past the intuition that you can’t do lunch yoga and convince yourself that you have to. That’s what I’m going to do, anyhow.
See you at the studio?
Aline Holzwarth is an applied behavioral scientist, primarily focusing on digital health research and scientifically informed product design. She is Head of Behavioral Science at Pattern Health, an evidence-based connected care platform that leverages behavioral science to help patients stick to their care plans. She also co-founded the Behavior Shop, a behavioral science advisory company, and holds an appointment as Principal of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, an applied behavioral science lab that helps people be happier, healthier and wealthier, at home and abroad.