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ADHD Natural Treatment: Yoga

Prescription medications like Ritalin are the most widely-used treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But just because medication is the most prescribed approach doesn't necessarily mean it is the most effective one. We've already talked about how ADHD medications only work for a small number of children in the short term, and how it only addresses the symptoms instead of the root cause of the disorder. Instead of a quick-fix approach to such a complex condition, what ADHD children need is a comprehensive mind/body approach.

Yoga has been shown to be an effective complementary treatment for ADHD.  Yoga incorporates breathing exercises (pranayama), physical postures (asanas), and deep relaxation techniques to strengthen the nervous system and calm down the minds and bodies of children in a relaxed, non-competitive environment.  There is also a spiritual aspect to yoga that grounds each individual in his or her own internal awareness, promoting greater attention, impulse control, and the ability to concentrate – qualities children with ADHD have difficulty with.  

There are a growing number of studies that support the efficacy of yoga in reducing ADHD symptoms. The physical component has been found to benefit children with ADHD because it provides an outlet for all the pent-up energy children have.  What makes yoga particularly effective is that the qualities learned from the discipline can be carried onto other activities, particularly those that require a lot out of a child's intellectual faculties.   A study done in 2004 showed that yoga improved behavior and attention among school-age boys who were taking prescription drugs, compared to boys who took medications only.  The frequency of yoga practice was a factor in the level of improvement. 

So how exactly does yoga improve the symptoms of ADHD? Brain function improves when the whole body is involved in learning, because it receives a lot of stimuli from the postural muscles along spine.  A prescribed routine like the Sun Salutation stimulates both sides of the brain, helping brain integration and facilitating efficient learning.  A yoga class itself is structured around a specific ritual that can calm down scattered minds. ADHD children begin a class by arranging their mat space and performing the opening breathing practice to get warmed up.  Afterwards, children learn balance and coordination. Balance teaches children the importance of controlling their thoughts and directing their attention to useful stimuli. The mental aspect of balancing also fosters the development of the brain's executive center.

The effects of yoga on ADHD are not as immediate as medical interventions, but they are profound and stay with the child forever.  Furthermore, yoga has no side effects save for a calmer mindset, improved school performance, and a better sense of control over mind and body. Of course, yoga should be part of a treatment protocol that includes nutritious meals, a healthy environment, and other needed therapeutic interventions that address the cause of the disorder, such as the UnRitalin Solution.