With everything that’s going on in my life lately, I should be on the wrong side of the Crazyville tracks. Let’s be honest, I’m only about a step away from the city limit, but a step away is better than setting up camp over there. At the risk of sounding like the wacky Yoga lady, I have to give props where props are due – Yoga is the only reason I’m not strapped to a bed right now. As it turns out, downward facing dog is actually man’s best friend. ~ST
Yoga – A Natural ADHD Treatment.
Slow down, breath deeply, move carefully and be still. These are all the cornerstones of mindful yoga practices. They are not the common practices of people with ADD/ADHD. In fact, people with ADD/ADHD often have a great amount of difficulty organizing their thoughts, their time and their bodies. It is because of this that many professionals are now finding that yoga can be such a useful treatment supplement or alternative for people struggling with ADD/ADHD.
Overview of ADD/ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are behavioral disorders that refer to a deficiency in “age-appropriate attention,” impulse control, hyperactive behavior and “rule-governed behavior.” It is usually manifested in school-age children, likely because this is when children are truly called to follow directions and act uniformly as a group. However, it is a disorder that affects people of all ages, including adults. It is still unclear exactly what the cause of this behavior is. Theories include brain chemistry, environmental factors, chemical imbalances, nutrition or a combination of factors. While children and adults with ADD/ADHD may struggle with school or work, they typically test within the average or above-average range of intelligence and often above-average for creative thinking.
Behaviors Associated with ADD/ADHD
While not everyone with ADD/ADHD exhibits all of these behaviors, they can serve as a general guideline.
- Difficulty following directions, instructions, rules
- Restlessness, fidgeting
- Impulse control
- Difficulty sitting with a sustained task for extended periods of time
- Acting and speaking without thinking through actions or consequences
- Difficulties with socialization
- Low self-esteem
Why Yoga Can Help
Yoga is an activity that revolves around systematic and patterned breathing and movement. There are a lot of sustained positions as well as repetition. It is these specific elements to yoga that make it so beneficial to people with ADD/ADHD.
- Deep Breathing (pranayama)
- Sustained Body Positions (asanas)
- Bond & Trust with Instructor
- Following Specific Guided Instruction
- Focus on Body & Breathing
- Awareness of Body & Breathing
- Relaxation Techniques
- Calming the Mind
- Promotion of Strength, Stretching, Balance, Posture
Each of these elements directly attends to the exact behaviors that are so challenging for the person with ADD/ADHD. A continued and sustained learning and practice of yoga can help with ADD/ADHD because the entire activity is grounded in the very things that people with the disorder want and need to address.
The Benefits of Yoga and ADHD
The benefits of yoga for people with ADD/ADHD are significant. As with the behaviors, there is no guarantee that any one person will reap all of these benefits; however, there is a distinct likelihood that a person with ADD/ADHD will benefit significantly from practicing yoga.
- Self-Awareness – It promotes the connection between the mind, the body and the spirit. People with ADD/ADHD are notoriously out of sync with their own behaviors, bodies or patterns. It is thought that the brain struggles to decode and organize all of the sensory stimuli in a given environment. Yoga emphasizes specifically physiological self-perception and awareness. Many feel that this benefit is perhaps even greater than any physical benefit achieved.
- Improved Athletic Performance – People with ADD/ADHD can have difficulty with following directions and traditional sports. Because of this, they are often unpopular with peers and coaches. This can result in many children and adults feeling discouraged from participating in sports which can result in even great lack of coordination. Yoga is a great way to avoid these other forms of traditional sports.
- Removal of Competition – This makes it a great physical activity for children and adults who want exercise but are anxious about team sports.
- Relaxation – Often people with ADD/ADHD are anxious, either as a symptom of the disorder or a result of behaviors.
- Teaches how to quiet the mind – Allowing a person with ADD/ADHD a chance to organize and slow the thinking process and focus more.
- Decreased Depression & Anxiety – People with ADD/ADHD are often depressed or anxious as a symptom of the disorder or as a result. Yoga can help calm the nerves either way.
- Promotion of the Needs of Others – By creating an increased awareness of oneself and physical space, it allows the person with ADD/ADHD to better see how he or she impacts the space of others.
- Structure – Many people with ADD/ADHD just cannot organize their own thoughts and lives. This results in a lot of un-reached potential – especially with children and teenagers. It has been shown that systematic, patterned movements of the body can help the brain to refocus and “copy” the same systematic patterns. The repetition of the body in a structured manner helps to foster a repetition in the mind of more structured thinking.
- Increased Strength & Flexibility – A common physical result. For people with ADD/ADHD, this adds greater physical control over their bodies and personal awareness of physical space.
- Improved Energy – It can be rejuvenating for people with ADD/ADHD. Despite when many people think, people with ADD/ADHD do not have endless energy. The demands that their physiology and physical bodies make on them can be quite exhausting, many report.
- Balanced Metabolism – Many feel that nutrition and digestion can be root causes for ADD/ADHD. Yoga works to balance metabolism, digestion as well as the internal body systems.
- Cardiovascular & Circulatory Health – Yoga can help to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
There are certainly even more benefits than this to be found – especially as each person with ADD/ADHD is an individual with unique needs and outcomes.
It must be noted that while yoga is a wonderful health option for people with ADD/ADHD, it should not be viewed in any way as a “cure-all.” Most people with ADD/ADHD benefit from a combination of treatments – with a wide range of options within these. Always remember the following:
- Yoga cannot replace the need for a physicians care – this does not mean medication! It does mean expert advice and input regarding your health or that of your child.
- Yoga requires time and discipline – both of which can be hard for people with ADD/ADHD. Patience, effort and kindness are necessary (and should be a given, too).
In the end, yoga is proving to be one of the best complementary treatments for people with ADD/ADHD. The patterns, rhythmic breathing and focused movements all seem to contribute to a general decrease in negative behavioral symptoms and a positive increase in desired and appropriate behaviors. It has significant emotional benefits as well as long-term physical benefits. If you have not yet explored this as an option for yourself or loved one – it is time you did!