Yoga and ADHD
I just started to take a yoga class in my community and all the while I was thinking, "Wow, this would be great for someone who has ADHD." And I am not the only one who has had the same thoughts. Research has just begun to take a look at yoga as a treatment method for individuals who have ADHD, particularly children.
Researcher Pauline Jensen published a study in 2004 entitled, "The effects of yoga on the attention and behavior of boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the Journal of Attention Disorders. Although the sample size was small (19 boys who were clinically diagnosed with ADHD) she did find that the boys who did yoga showed decreased emotional liability, restlessness, and impulsive behavior. Jensen also reports that yoga "...increases concentration, promotes physical discipline, and induces confidence."
In another study, (Davison, E. 2005. A study of the Yoga Ed tools for teachers program with 4th graders at Public School #198 in Bronx, N.Y. A Summary of Research) they looked at something called the Yoga Ed program and the Tools for Teachers program. This program offers a yoga curriculum for teachers to use in their classroom for students. Students who utilized this program were found to show evidence of greater self-esteem, improved academic performance as well as a newfound ability to relax. While this study did not look at the benefits of yoga specifically for ADHD students one could see the potential for helping this population.
My personal experience with taking yoga thus far is that there is plethora of potential for any participant to develop a better mind/body connection. And isn't this one of the issues of ADHD is that one feels a disconnect from mindfulness and the physical actions of the body? And too there almost always is some sort of relaxation component to yoga which can prove helpful to calm and soothe someone who suffers from hyperactivity.
One of the things that my teacher has taught us to promote a better mind/body connection is to listen to our bodies. I like when she tells us, "Your mind is a witness to your body" or "Listen to where your body wants to go." I think that this develops a greater awareness to pay more attention to our bodies and what they need.
The breathing exercises of yoga can also help us to pay more attention to our bodies and physical states. During one of my classes the teacher taught us "box breathing." We had to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, and then exhale for four counts, and then hold for four counts. It sounds easy but it is not. I had a hard time with this. It was hard for me to slow down and have discipline over my breaths. Mainly I think it was because I had to pay attention to them. I found it an excellent way to force myself to concentrate. I found that all other thoughts left my mind as I focused on each breath.
Of course much of yoga involves stretching but also elongation of movements so that we are forced into consciousness of what we are doing. The movements are slowed down so much that time itself seems to slow down. You begin to operate at a totally different level than you are used to in regular day to day life.
And then there is the relaxation component to yoga which is the most difficult part for me. We "endured" twenty some minutes of relaxation and I thought I would explode. My mind's thoughts were like monkeys jumping from tree limb to tree limb. I generally do not like to be alone with my thoughts as they run rampant and seem uncontrolled. But my yoga teacher's soothing voice allowed me to slow my thoughts to a more manageable crawl.
The first time I participated in the relaxation portion of my yoga class, I wanted to jump up and do something, anything to stop the torturous slow ticking of the clock. Relaxation has always seemed alien to me, almost a punishment for my need to always be up, active, and "purposeful." When I relax I feel guilty that I am not doing something or am wasting time. But my teacher's words brought me back to reality. Her velvety tone imbibed, "You are perfect just the way you are. Right now you don't need to do anything. You don't need to think anything. You don't need to be anywhere...but here. "Basically she was giving us the permission to relax. I found that as time went on my resistance began to weaken and I found that I could relax after all, even for a few minutes. It is a start!
In so many ways I think yoga could be beneficial to both children and adults who suffer from ADHD if the individual could make the effort to slow down enough to reap the full benefits of the session. Yoga seeming simplicity is rather deceiving. I found it to be challenging because both my mind and body are not used to such deliberate and conscious intentions and actions. But I am learning and I think in the end yoga is giving me a way to reduce my stress. It is giving me more power to concentrate and focus. And it is allowing me to perceive that time is not always something we must rush through.
Now how about you? Have you or your child ever taken a yoga class? What did you make of it? Did it help you or your child with ADHD symptoms? Do tell all. We want to hear your stories! We always love to hear from you.