Yoga for ADHD
Finding an answer to solving a disability or a disease can be an extreme challenge. One particular cure that has been a long work in progress has been an answer for Attention Deficit Hyper-Active Disorder (ADHD). Many possible solutions have been researched to find the answer to ADHD yoga has been determined to be helpful in addition to other treatments. One particular solution with a small body of research is yoga for those with ADHD. Yoga isn’t proven to be an answer to ADHD, however it has been found to be helpful as an addition treatment.
ADHD is a common disorder that effects children and continues through their adulthood. “It’s estimated to be present in 3%-5% of children. Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can't seem to follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive, not stopping to think before they act. Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with time management, organizational skills, goal setting, and employment. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addictions” ("Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," n.d.). Those suffering from ADHD have issues with typical tasks and functions that most take for granted. Executive functions and behavioral inhibition include tasks like waiting in line, not interrupting, delaying inner speech and analyzing a problem and solution. Daily functions that others take for granted are things that ADHD patients struggle with everyday. The most effective treatment for those with ADHD is a combination of therapy and medication. More recently, yoga has become a topic of research as an additional treatment for those with ADHD.
“Yoga is a systematic body of knowledge concerned with the physiological and mental processes that change the physiology of the body through breathing techniques, postures and cognitive control” (Jensen & Kenny, 2004, p. ). Many interpret the meaning of yoga differently. Yoga is often defined to mean “union.” Yoga to the outsiders looking in, is simply stretching, deep breathing and balance. But to the yogis practicing can be a way to connect with a higher up, one that may be able to help them day-to-day. Yoga has more recently been tested to determine other benefits. Such as those for patients with ADHD.
A study had 19 boys participating to determine the effects of yoga on adolescences with ADHD, 11 boys were placed in the yoga group and eight boys acted as the control group. The yoga group was involved in a yoga session once a week for an hour, for 20 weeks. The control group was involved in a once-a-month meeting of cooperative games for an hour each time. After the study was completed, results showed that the boys who took part in the yoga portions “reflected a reduction in mood swings, temper outbursts and crying fits” (Jensen & Kenny, 2004, p. ). Jensen found, that “yoga has demonstrated a calming and focusing effect. Prior to yoga, the boys were impulsive and inattentive. Significant improvements found on one scale after yoga indicated that from a parental perspective the boys’ behavior was more controllable and they were able to remain engaged in activities” (Jensen & Kenny, 2004, p. ).
In other studies, more improvements have been found by implementing yoga for those with ADHD. A study using contemporary and alternative medicine for those with ADHD found much improvement in behavior, school and home life. “Sahaja Yoga Meditation (SYM), which is based on scientific principles, has shown promise in a number of clinical trials. SYM claims to relax the sympathetic nervous system by activating pathways that relax body and mind” (Harrison, Manocha, & Rubia, 2004, p. 481). This study was a three-week intervention with 90-minute guided meditation two times a week. Parents were asked to lead the children in guided meditation at home. “The results reported improvements in children’s ADHD behavior, self-esteem and relationship quality. Children described benefits at home (better sleep patterns, less anxiety) and at school (more able to concentrate, less conflict)” (Harrison, Manocha, & Rubia, 2004, p. 479). The study also reported benefits for the parents as well, such as less stress, better mood and the ability to manage their child’s behavior better.
It was found by some that medication made functioning day to day difficult. Jason Lamb found that the medication he was taking made him more anxious. Jason tried yoga to hopefully calm him down and help control his hyperactivity. “Yoga definitely does seem to just make me more calm basically instead of being so hyper and sort of bouncing around. Yoga just makes my mind think a lot more logically” (Burke, 2003). It’s been found by many ADHD patients that yoga is an art that allows one to relax and refocus and harness the hyper activity that is often overwhelming. According to a published journal on attention disorders, "boys that were medicated showed improvement in attention and behavior when they practiced yoga regularly" (Archer, 2005, p. 88). Style Basing their research off a similar study to Jensen's the difference being this study was based of boys on medication where as Jensen's was unmedicated.
Looking at an approach of treating children with ADHD in developing countries, research has proven that ADHD is prevalent everywhere. A program was designed for ages 6-11, to combine yoga and meditation with a multimodal behavioral therapy program. The program used trained high school volunteers to keep the cost down. "Seventy-six enrolled into the program we titled “Climb Up.” This was a multimodal program that incorporated yoga postures, meditation program, and behavioral play therapy in one-hour sessions, for six weeks, during the school day" (Kaley, Peterson, Fischer 2010 pg. 20) This unlike other studies, incorporated yoga into the school day. It was found that 57 of the 63 participants had some type of improvement.
Overall the studies came to the conclusions that the more often children participate in yoga, it was found that the students who practiced more than the once a week meeting had more of an improvement in behavior than those who just practiced once a week. They were able to control their energy and impulsivity. Yoga has been found to be a great complementary activity for ADHD patients who are already taking medication. Studies support the idea that yoga is beneficial to ADHD students in developing countries as well. It’s a common stereotype to believe that most developing countries aren’t up to speed with treatments for disorders like ADHD. But it’s important to understand that you don’t need a professional guru to teach yoga. The high school students were trained and were able to teach the students and still received positive results in terms of behavior.
“Yoga incorporates physical postures, breath control, mental concentration, and deep relaxation to positively affect mental states. It produces similar effects as relaxation in that it tends to result in feelings of calmness. Yoga also tends to promote self-control, attention and concentration, self-efficacy, body awareness, and stress reduction” (Peck, Kehle, Bray, & Theodore, 2005).
The purpose of the studies was to refocus the students and help improve their attention span and behavior. Although the results of the studies varied, it was important to see that yoga often made a difference.
Yoga in Schools
Yoga is encouraged in some schools; because of the way students can connect with it. It's accessible to everyone. It's not competitive. It's extremely beneficial to some students with more severe disabilities than ADHD. The students are taught tools to help distress and regulate breathing. Parents have reported children being excited to go to school and practice yoga. The school brought in a yoga teacher to teach an after-school program because yoga was such a big hit with the students. Although yoga wasn't brought in for the purpose of improving ADHD, it still provided a great deal of benefits to the students of the school. There are certain schools and professionals that feel yoga has made a drastic impact on students during the school day. The studies above show that yoga has made a difference. Similarly to how yoga was helpful to those students with ADHD in other countries, yoga is said to be very beneficial to those in urban areas. It’s has been researched that yoga in the schools improves the students skills in managing stress. “Incorporating yoga into a physical education curriculum will provide opportunity for students to "practice" varying components of health-related physical fitness in order to better understand the component” (Stanec, Forneris, & Theuerkauf, 2010, p. 18). Bringing yoga into the schools broadens students’ experiences to activities outside their everyday culture and routine. Yoga helps students build confidence to participate in activities outside of school. Incorporating yoga into the school system also encourages students to seek physical activities as part of their routine after completing school.
After watching a recent film for class, the culture of yoga in North America has become more apparent. It is clear that the original intent for yoga is no longer the basis for spiritually practicing yoga. The American culture currently is using yoga as a way to better themselves physically. Yoga is no longer used to connect with a higher up; it is used as workout or even a competition. America has taken yoga and turned it into a business to support a lifestyle. Even though yoga was created long before the idea of copyright protection and patents, some people think that they can purchase a form of yoga and call it their own. One man, Bikram, bought the patent of a certain style of yoga and began suing those who used the name “Bikram” yoga or even began teaching a pose that was from the Bikram practice. The American culture has taken the religious and spiritual aspects out of yoga. The simple fact that it is being used as a medication to children, most children involved in the above studies don’t understand the spiritual purpose of yoga. They view it as a fun, stretching, “look at what I can do” idea. Unfortunately the culture in America has changed the original intent of yoga and has morphed it into a whole new enterprise that people now make a living from, where in other cultures, people dedicate their whole life to practicing yoga.
As a patient with ADHD who is involved in hot yoga I find it extremely beneficial. I found having something to work toward in an encouraging environment, pushing me to want to continue to work on my yoga skills and work on my ability to focus my mind. I found after a yoga session, I was refreshed, refocused and ready to start my day. I was approaching situations with a positive outlook. I was looking at the whole picture. I found myself less impulsive. I also do not take my medication regularly. I found when medicated, I was calmer because of the medicine, not because of what yoga was doing for me. I found that I was able to deepen into my poses and connect with my breathing better. My medicine helped to control my thoughts more. I was able to focus more on the yoga aspect of practice and look more at the light within oneself and focus on my inner peace. I enjoy practicing yoga while I am medicated and unmedicated. I feel like each offers a different experience and both help me go into my day with a new view on life. I don’t get so worked up about things. I am able to have a better grasp of my executive functions and controling emotions.
Overall, the research has come back to prove that yoga practice for those with ADHD made a difference. All but one of the studies reported a change in attention and time spent on a task. Research still proves that a combination of medication with therapy produces best results for students with ADHD. Research is still on the rise to determine other activities and ways to help students focus on the task at hand and help control the energy that is often overwhelming.
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