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
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 ADHD. In fact, people with 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 ADHD.
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 ADHD.
Deep Breathing (pranayama)
Sustained Body Positions (asanas)
Bond & Trust with Instructor
Following Specific Guided Instruction
Focus on Body & Breathing
Awareness of Body & Breathing
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 ADHD. A continued and sustained learning and practice of yoga can help 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 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 ADHD will benefit significantly from practicing yoga.
Self-Awareness – It promotes the connection between the mind, the body and the spirit. People with 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 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 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 ADHD a chance to organize and slow the thinking process and focus more.
Decreased Depression & Anxiety – People with 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 ADHD to better see how he or she impacts the space of others.
Structure – Many people with 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 ADHD, this adds greater physical control over their bodies and personal awareness of physical space.
Improved Energy – It can be rejuvenating for people with ADHD. Despite when many people think, people with 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 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 ADHD is an individual with unique needs and outcomes.
It must be noted that while yoga is a wonderful health option for people with ADHD, it should not be viewed in any way as a “cure-all.” Most people with 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 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 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!