Pairing a hyperactive child with a quiet, slow form of exercise may sound counterintuitive and even disastrous, but it turns out yoga can be incredibly helpful for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioural disorder formally defined as a significant deficiency in age-appropriate attention, impulse control and rule-governed behaviour, which manifests in early childhood. Associated behaviours include: hyperactivity; speaking or acting before one thinks; difficulty in following instructions; poor organizational skills; restlessness; impatience; forgetfulness; low self-esteem; and 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 unco-ordinated.
Some experts believe that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there is no documented proof that this is actually the case. The incidence of ADHD varies from 3 to 15 percent for school age population, depending on the strictness of the diagnosis. Sometimes referred to as ADD/WH or “minimal brain dysfunction,” children with ADHD generally do not perform well in school, though most of them test at average or above average intelligence. Worldwide, millions of children have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
Yoga uses physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and deep relaxation techniques to calm and strengthen the central nervous system. It helps children and teenagers with ADHD get in touch with their bodies in a relaxed and non-competitive way. There is also a spiritual side to Yoga that grounds its practitioners in their own silence and internal awareness – something that is becoming increasingly difficult to experience with the frenzied pace of life today.
Yoga has been proven as a complementary treatment for boys with ADHD who already stabilized on medication, particularly for its evening effect when medication effects are absent. Children with ADHD often experience learning delays due to their hyperactivity and distractibility. Yoga teachers introduce breathing and a few postures to these children before attempting to teach them an entire Yoga routine. This will help them to calm down enough to follow instructions. Teaching these children proper respiration is an important aspect of their Yoga training and breathing exercises are extremely beneficial. If your child has ADHD, consider taking them to a yoga class and see the results for yourself. You may be very pleasantly surprised!