About 1 in 20 children are diagnosed with ADHD in Australia and it’s much more common in boys than girls. ADHD is a developmental problem (rather than an illness) that results in poor concentration and control of impulses. It can affect children’s learning and social skills and also family functioning.
Unfortunately, there has not been enough research to develop a yoga-based intervention protocol for working with ADHD, but results from some early studies are showing promising signs that yoga can be a useful complementary therapy.
- A 2012 study published in ISRN Pediatrics found yoga improved school performance in children with ADHD and that these results were sustained throughout the year. (1)
- A pilot study in Germany found that yoga can be an effective complementary or concomitant treatment for ADHD. The study also advocates further research into the impact of yoga or body-oriented therapies on the prevention of ADHD. (2)
- A study co-authored by Dr. Pauline Jensen published in the Journal of Attention Disorders suggests that yoga improved behaviour and focus in ADHD boys on drug therapy. And, researchers found that participants who additionally practiced yoga at home had even greater improvements in ADHD symptoms. (3)
Tips for Working with Children with ADHD
- Choose asana poses, like forward bends, which have the capacity to draw attention inwardly and produce a calming effect
- Experiment with different types of restorative positions
- Use repetitive movement sequences with a focus on mindfulness
- Teach kids to be aware of their breath
- Choose calming breathing practices with a focus on the exhalation or practices that direct the breath to different parts of the body
- Remember that meditation doesn’t need to be done sitting down. Experiment with different kinds of movement meditation
- Use guided meditations or visualisations rather than open meditation
- Help children see themselves as whole and healthy human beings and not their ADHD label
- Build their self-esteem by highlighting achievements
- Do not think that yoga will ‘cure’ ADHD or even reduce the need for medication. Meet these children where they are and place your emphasis on finding ways to help with work within their own limits and boundaries.
(1) Peer-Mediated Multimodal Intervention Program for the Treatment of Children with ADHD n India: One year follow up, ISRN Pediatrics, 2012; 2012:419168, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539379/
(2) The effectiveness of body-oriented methods of therapy in the treatment of ADHD: results of a controlled pilot study, Kinder Jugendpsychiatr Psychoter, 2006 Jan; 34(1):37-47 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16485612
(3) The effects of yoga on the attention and behavior of boys with ADHD, Journal of Attention Disorders, http://jad.sagepub.com/content/7/4/205.abstract