By Faye Martins
Is yoga for attention deficit disorders getting any results? Yes, and some teachers are finding opportunities in this field. There are many reasons why people attend a Yoga teacher training. Some people obviously attend to learn how to become a Yoga instructor, but that’s not the same goal for every intern. One of my classmates was there for a spiritual quest, while another wanted to learn how Yoga teachers master focusing mental energy. In this world of texting while driving, some people forget the virtual world isn’t reality. Multi-tasking has turned some of us into zombies. At the same time, adults and children are having difficulty reading, because they scan words instead of reading them. The reason: Too many messages enter the mind at one time and people don’t have the tools to mentally focus.
The Yogic Method for ADHD
Can Yoga training help with attention deficit disorder? Does the disorder really exist? One of the most controversial topics of the last decade has been the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. From one extreme decrying the use of any kind of drugs at all to the other belittling the use of any form of energy work, the discussion has often deteriorated into blame and criticism on both ends. Rarely is there one simple answer for any dilemma, and ADHD certainly falls into that category.
Expert, author and psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell recommends a variety of approaches, including exercises that stimulate the cerebellum, and says that Kundalini Yoga helps with his own ADHD. For those who question the ADHD diagnosis, Dr. Hallowell uses the following analogy: “Sadness is to depression what wandering of attention is to ADD.”
Yoga and ADHD: Pranayama, Meditation, and Asana
• A study by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York recently released data suggesting that asthma frequently accompanies attention deficit disorder. Regardless of whether breathing problems are associated with the condition, deep breathing techniques help to manage its symptoms. According to the department of psychiatry at Columbia University, breathing at a regular, rhythmic rate balances the autonomic nervous system. This improves attention and lessens anxiety.
• Meditation not only calms the mind; it also modifies brain cells so that they work more efficiently. Simple visualizations, when combined with deep breathing, can change attitudes and behavior. For some people with ADHD, active styles of meditation like Yoga or Qigong may be easier than passive, sitting meditations.
• Exercise elevates the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, three neurotransmitters linked to ADHD, and boosts the supply of stress-reducing endorphins. Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Teresa Cirule says that the brains of people with attention deficit disorder are less active in the frontal lobe, interior gyrus and basal ganglia, areas of the brain used for self-control and executive planning. Simple asanas activate these areas, improving concentration and reducing impulsivity.
Three common restorative asanas are recommended for the relief of ADHD symptoms: Forward Bends for lengthening and deepening exhalations, Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose for slowing heart beat and calming the nervous system and Corpse Pose for total relaxation. A regular Yoga practice builds confidence, teaches skills for coping with stressful events and improves general well-being. It also encourages a healthy life style.
Side Notes for Yoga Instructors
It goes without saying: As a Yoga teacher or guru, you provide a safe haven for students to get away from multi-tasking. Studio and ashram owners should consider specialized workshops for students or specialized masters classes (Yoga teacher training) for the purpose of helping adults and children to focus. Sadly, technology is one of the culprits and there is no end to new gadgets being developed. Children have no problems mastering a smartphone at an early age, but as they become multi-tasking teens learning Yoga training could save their sanity and their lives.
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Thanks for this article. I work with children and adolescents who have ADHD diagnoses. There are two issues: helping them maintain attention and helping them manage their elevated energy levels. It is important to find something that holds the interest of an individual with ADD or ADHD. That’s why I choose power poses, such as Warriors, Triangles and balancing poses. These poses are grounding and just challening enough to hold the individual’s interest. Pranayama is very effective in helping to calm their energy. Mudras are also effective in helping the individual to center their focus. I think meditation and visualizations would be very hard for someone with ADD and ADHD to try, unless they’ve already been practicing some yoga techniques for awhile before trying to get someone to relax in a meditative state.
Children have no problems mastering a smartphone at an early age, but as they become multi-tasking teens learning Yoga training could save their sanity and their lives. Thanks for posting this valuable article.
Forward Bends for lengthening and deepening exhalations,
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose for slowing heart beat and calming the nervous system and Corpse Pose for total relaxation and these are recommended for ADHD. Thanks for posting this helpful article.