May 13

Yoga and ADHD Treatment

Have you even woken up feeling as if your mind were scattered in several places? That’s how I felt the other day. I had worked late the night before, stayed on the computer too long, and slept badly. 


In the morning, I couldn’t decide which of the many tasks in front of me to concentrate on. I eventually chose one, and with difficulty I worked for some time. 


But instead of doing what I “should have done” next, I ran out to a yoga class. For about the first 15 or 20 minutes of the class, my mind was still racing—I shouldn’t be here, I thought. I should have kept working. I could have accomplished X, Y, and Z. 


Little by little, however, as my body took and held the yoga poses, and my breath grew slow and even, my mind calmed down. By the time the class was finished and I walked out the door, I had been transformed. 


I felt centered and focused. Even the traffic noises didn’t sound as loud. I returned to my apartment and began to pick up my work where I had left off.


Granted, I was fortunate that my schedule was flexible enough that day to take advantage of the class. Sometimes we have no choice but to plunge ahead with whatever we are doing, no matter how distracted we feel.


But it’s good to remember that this kind of transformation is possible, that we can find a sense of peace even in the midst of uncompleted tasks.


In their book, Non-Drug Treatments for ADHD, Dr. Richard Brown and Dr. Patricia Gerbarg explore how mind-body practices help ADHD. While meditation can calm, balance and strengthen the nervous system, it can be challenging for those who have ADHD traits, such as hyperactivity and distractibility, to sit still. 


Dr. Brown and Dr. Gerbarg explain that the kind of movement and breathing that is done in yoga releases physical tension and allows the mind to relax, to concentrate, and to meditate.The slow breathing stimulates the vagus nerves, which are the main pathways of the soothing, healing, and recharging part of the nervous system. 


Vagus is Latin for “wandering.” This nerve begins at the brainstem and “meanders” through the abdomen, with branching nerves coming into contact with internal organs in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. The vagus nerve carries information from the nervous system to the brain.


People with healthy vagus nerve functioning are more resilient under stress, and they have an easier time moving from an excited state to a relaxed one.


A growing number of research studies indicate that certain yogic practices, such as breathing techniques, can significantly increase vagal tone. 


Dr. Brown and Dr. Gerbarg write: “By quieting and balancing the stress response system, yoga and breathing practices improve emotional regulation. For these reasons, we recommend that everyone with ADHD get involved in yoga and breathing practices, and we advise practitioners to consider adding mind-body practices to their ADHD treatment plans.”


Click here to read an article about scientific research on yoga:

“Yoga is so universal in its principles and so holistically beneficial, it is possible for any person, young or old, religious or agnostic, to embrace and enjoy a practice.”

Christy Turlington, Living Yoga





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    • Linda Secretan on May 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    You have a light touch with important information — leading us from your personal experience, to the ADHD challenge to evidence-based support for yoga. I appreciate, too, your link a further studies.

    I’m signing up for your five week email coaching, too!

      • on May 20, 2013 at 12:00 am

      Thank you Linda. I appreciate your feedback and am so glad you found the post helpful! These ancient and natural healing techniques really can make a big difference.

    • Felton Nordmark on June 7, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Academic difficulties are also frequent. The symptoms are especially difficult to define because it is hard to draw a line at where normal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity end and clinically significant levels requiring intervention begin. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed in two different settings for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

      • on June 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Dear Felton,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing the important information that it is indeed hard to draw the line between normal behavior and a diagnosis of ADHD. There continues to be controversy over the diagnosis, for which there are no biological or definitive tests.But the symptoms themselves, which vary, do affect academics. Personally,I believe we need to think about how we expect every student to fit into one system of learning.

      In any case, the new DSM-5 has strengthened the cross–situational requirement from two to several symptoms in each setting.

      Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the future.

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