ADHD & YOGA
Came across this wonderful article in the Autumn Canadian Yoga Alliance magazine…
Many adults live with ADHD, and so while this article focuses on children, it is important to remember it is the same for adults.
This article also supports the Tween Parent program I offer at the studio.
Yoga for Children Diagnosed with ADHD
“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.”
(Kahlil Gibran, 1923)
The following article is written by Dr. Ashleigh Stewart
As scientific as the name may sound Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an alleged and somewhat mysterious ‘disease’. Despite numerous studies dedicated to investigating its cause, no convincing evidence of any brain malfunction or other biological or genetic abnormality has been discovered.
Despite the fact that the source of ADHD is still vague, the symptoms that define ADHD are prevalent and prominent, so much so that approximately 6 million children in America alone have been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder and prescribed with psycho-stimulant drugs, such as Methylphenidate, otherwise known by it’s brand name Ritalin, as the primary method of treatment.
My question is what is ADHD? Why are so many children being diagnosed with it these days, and what could be the real cause of it?
Also, how much do we really know about the effects of stimulant drugs on our children?
How will taking these drugs affect children’s lives physiologically, psychologically, emotionally and socially as they grow up?
Also, what are the implications in terms of the future of the human race and our world if we keep medicating our children with highly addictive drugs?
These questions are what led me to research yoga as an alternative, natural, holistic strategy for dealing with the symptoms associated with ADHD in children.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is known to manifest in early childhood as a behavioral disorder which is defined as a deficiency in age-appropriate attention, impulse control and the inability to follow rules and structured activities.
Associated behaviors include:
speaking or acting before one thinks
difficulty in following instructions
poor organizational skills
poor social skills
Children with ADHD find it difficult to slow down, even when they want to; often they are so hurried that they seem clumsy and uncoordinated which can often lead to them hurting themselves or other children. As well, children with ADHD generally do not perform well in school, though most of them test at average or above average intelligence.
Possible Causes of ADHD
There are many factors contributing to this behavioral disorder, and the fact that so many children are being diagnosed with ADHD. For example:
overstimulation from video games/TV
lack of physical exercise
parental prenatal drug use
breakdown of the family structure
We live in a busy, stressful world that even our children cannot avoid. Classrooms are overcrowded with split age categories and teachers are expected to fulfill the educational needs of many diverse children, with different personalities and at different developmental stages.
Parents are struggling to be emotionally and mentally present as they are preoccupied with the pressure of heavy work related stresses, busy schedules and the financial pressure of having to pay bills, loans and mortgages. Life these days is a chaotic frenzy of stress and pressure and of course it is going to rub off onto our children.
How Can Yoga Help ADHD?
Yoga is simple to learn and easy to incorporate into any busy schedule. The techniques learned in yoga can be applied at anytime of the day, almost anywhere and do not require any special clothing, expensive equipment or tools. In fact, yoga can be so simple that even very young children can learn the techniques on their own and can be taught to practice them during times when they feel stressed, overwhelmed or insecure and need to feel calm and safe.
Yoga is an effective system for helping children and their families to deal with the behaviors associated with ADHD, on a physical level, through the practice of asana in a non-competitive way. This can help enhance a child’s sense of body awareness, self control, patience and respect for other people’s physical space. The fact that yoga is typically practiced on a mat introduces the concept of personal space, and teaches a child that there are boundaries between her physical space to move within, and that of other people around her.
On a deeper level, meditation practice can help bring you beyond the surface of the behavioral issues that children are experiencing to reveal what lies at the root of the challenges, to understand them and deal with them.
Meditation will also help the child to connect with his inner essence, his spirit and his soul. When he becomes more aware of whom he is on a deeper level, he will be more able to express this to his mother and father, and teacher.
Another exercise children respond particularly well to is guided visualization with imagery. It helps them relax and calm down as their inner creativity is invoked and stimulated through use of their imagination.
This yoga technique opens children’s minds as they are allowed to fun free in their own mental landscape. This type of mental freedom helps them to build confidence in their own creative abilities and, as a result, self-esteem and trust.
The spiritual aspect of yoga helps ground practitioners in their own silence and inner awareness, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to experience in our busy pace of life today.
Yoga also teaches us about personal responsibility and that all our actions/choices create the circumstances and experiences that we live in our life.
The practice of PARTNER YOGA, (like the SOL YOGA – TWEEN & PARENT YOGA class) between the parent and child, can help build trust and mutual respect for each other as individual people, as well as being part of the parent/child connection.
Yoga, in this sense, can help rebuild, strengthen and solidify relationships within families on many levels in unique, fun and interesting ways.
Yoga provides a complete system, above all others, which, if practiced both physically and spiritually, can provide the basis for a way of life that incorporates physical, emotional and spiritual understanding and well being in a natural, healthy and holistic way.
Children are never to young to begin learning about personal responsibility. It will help them to understand that their behavior influences what happens to them everyday.
Children feel empowered in knowing that they have a choice in terms of how they behave and interact with others and their environment. A sense of personal responsibility, along with a feeling of empowerment to choose, will no doubt lead to better behavior from a calmer and more confident child.
When parents/teachers are able to acknowledge, accept and relate to who their child really is, and what he is trying to express through actions and behaviors, then he will no longer be misunderstood and viewed as being dysfunctional.
This is very important for the child’s sense of self worth and future success, and our future depends on us raising a generation of healthy, confident, creative empowered children.
Dr. Ashleigh Stewart, D. Msc.