Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Symptoms and Healing With Yoga

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - Fitzabout

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) usually begins in childhood – it is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder of children and adolescents – and can spread well into adulthood.

In many cases, ADHD is benign, with symptoms of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and/or poor attention span close to normal for one’s age. ADHD reaches a problematic level when these tendencies lead to significant functional impairment in school, work, and other activities.

Living in a fast-paced world full of tempting stimuli can make it difficult to concentrate. Add to this a tendency to be overly active and impulsive and someone has three major symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

Although all such tendencies are of constant importance and can be sources of tremendous creativity and productivity, they can cause personal and interpersonal problems alike.

Now we find that about 11 percent of children (plus 4 percent of adults) in the U.S. are diagnosed with ADHD, this proportion rising to 15 to 20 percent per year, with men being 3 times more likely than women to be diagnosed.[1] [2]

It is also critically important to appreciate that ADHD is one of several conditions in which the social construct can confuse a variety of natural human tendencies with the disease, stigmatizing certain behaviors in ways that make cause or matters complicate.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Other Conditions

ADHD is often associated with co-occurring disorders including dissociative, mood swings, anxiety, and substance abuse.

It does not increase a person’s risk for other conditions or diseases, but one with ADHD – especially children – are more likely to experience multiple coexisting conditions. They can sometimes make social situations more difficult or school more challenging.

The possible coexisting conditions can be:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Conduct disorder and difficulties, including antisocial behavior, fighting, and oppositional defiance disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Substance abuse
  • Bed wetting problem
  • Sleep disorders

Symptoms

Boys and girls can exhibit very different ADHD symptoms, and boys are more likely to be diagnosed with an attention disorder.

It is possible that the nature of ADHD symptoms in boys makes their condition more noticeable than in girls.

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Boys display the outward symptoms that most people think of when they think of ADHD behavior, like:

  • “Acting out” or impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity (like running and jumping)
  • Lack of attention, and inattention

ADHD in girls is often easy to overlook because it is not “typical” Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) behavior.

Symptoms are not as seen as they are in boys, which can include:

  • Low self-esteem and anxiety
  • Being withdrawn
  • Decreased attention that can lead to difficulty with academic achievement
  • Verbal aggression, such as teasing, taunting or name calling
  • Inattention or tendency to “daydream”

Causes

As with most health conditions, internal and external variables are at play with ADHD.

We know epidemiology is a factor. We also know that environmental factors are becoming increasingly important, especially with the ubiquitous presence of televisions, computers and handheld electronic devices.

Prescriptions for treating, or healing, or living with it

Prescriptions for treating, or healing, or living with ADHD more easily vary depending on the child or adult being treated, and on the known causes and severity of symptoms.

In many cases, especially in adults, medication is the predominant form of treatment, often in conjunction with behavioral therapies.

Pharmacological interventions are also common with children and adolescents, and are usually done in conjunction with different forms of behavioral therapy, which are:

  • Interpersonal counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Support groups

There is increasing evidence to support physical exercise in reducing ADHD symptoms as well as modalities drawn from alternative and complementary medicine.

Managing or Healing ADHD with Yoga

Perhaps the main benefit of yoga is how it helps you stay calm. It can also help you focus and control your natural impulses.

Part of yoga’s potential efficacy in healing, or curing, or managing ADHD is that it invites and even requires focus and slow movement in activities that can be exciting.

Just as you might begin most yoga practices with Ujjayi Pranayama, for people with ADHD the power of Ujjayi Breath (Controlled Breathing, or Ocean Breath) gives them a sense of being more in control of their thoughts and behaviors, which is at the heart of treatment with ADHD.

Here we recommend guiding students in each practice session in Ujjayi Breath, Viloma Pranayama, Sama/Visma Vritti, and Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which focus on maintaining awareness of the breath. This greater concentration on the breath can contribute to greater focus and control, among other activities such as work, homework, and social activities.

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Yoga Asana exercises also contribute to self-control, especially postures that cannot be performed well without focused attention. Balancing postures are perfect in this regard as there is great difficulty in balancing without focused awareness.

Offering a variety of standing balance postures can help keep the you interested and focused —starting with:

  1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
  2. Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
  3. Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose)

If you have the healthy wrists and shoulders, offer arm balance starting with:

  1. Bakasana (Crane Pose)
  2. Kakasana (Crow Pose)
  3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose, or Downward Facing Dog Pose)
  4. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Downward Facing Tree, or Handstand)

Although these yoga asana practices get one more out of his head and into his body, they also invite a conscious presence to one’s immediate experience, which can help calm the mind and reduce impulsivity.

How Yoga Helps

When your specific muscle is weak, you can do exercises to make it stronger. The same is true for your brain.

Mindfulness meditation strengthens the ability to control the attention, teaches you how to observe yourself and focus on something. Trains you to bring the wandering mind back the very moment you are distracted. It can also make you more aware of the feelings so that you are less likely to act impulsively. [3]

Meditation is thought to help with ADHD because it thickens the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in focus, planning, and impulse control. It also increases the brain’s levels of dopamine, which are in short supply in ADHD brains. [4]

Research shows that mindfulness meditation can be very helpful in relieving symptoms of ADHD. A landmark UCLA study found that people with ADHD who participated in mindfulness meditation sessions once a week for 2 1/2 hours, then completed a daily home meditation practice that gradually increased from 5 to 5 over 8 weeks. Increases to 15 minutes, they are able to concentrate better on tasks. They were also less depressed and anxious. [5]

Yoga has also been shown to help improve symptoms of ADHD, although most of the research has been done with children. Like mindfulness meditation, it increases dopamine levels and strengthens the prefrontal cortex. [4]

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One study found that children who practiced 20 minutes of yoga twice a week for 8 weeks had improvements in focus and tests measuring attention. The findings suggest that this activity may be an effective complementary therapy in addition to therapies; like medication and psychological therapy. [6] [7] [5]

In addition to helping with symptoms, this type of relaxation technique can also help people with ADHD [8]:

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Article Sources +
  1. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Available here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html[]
  2. Understanding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder From Childhood to Adulthood. Timothy E. Wilens, MD and Thomas J. Spencer, MD.[]
  3. Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions. John T. Mitchell, Ph.D., Lidia Zylowska, M.D., and Scott H. Kollins, Ph.D. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4403871[]
  4. Neuropsychology of prefrontal cortex. Shazia Veqar Siddiqui, Ushri Chatterjee, and Nishant Goyal. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Jul-Sep; 50(3): 202–208. DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.43634.[][]
  5. Effects of an 8-week yoga program on sustained attention and discrimination function in children. Chien-Chih Chou and Chung-Ju Huang. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237364[][]
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237364/pdf/peerj-05-2883.pdf[]
  7. Interventions Based on Mind–Body Therapies for the Improvement of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Youth: A Systematic Review. Yaira Barranco-Ruiz, Bingen Esturo Etxabe, and Emilio Villa-González. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680862[]
  8. Yoga: What You Need To Know. Available here: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know[]

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