Mantra Meditation: an ADHD Panacea?
“In a society where we are overwhelmed by exterior stimulus and information, and with more than a thousand thoughts per blink of the eye, the power to have these tools to quiet the mind and connect ourselves with our unlimited self, where the infinite wisdom lives, is a gift. Use it!”
from: The Secrets of Yoga
Benefits of meditation for ADHDers
In my article Medication or Meditation? Non-drug help for ADHD ers, I talked about the benefits I’d received from a Buddhist meditation practice. Among these were: a more stable mood throughout the day; an inner sense of peace; a sense of being in flow with the universe, which made my time management much more effective, which led to happiness and a sense of accomplishment.
Altered brain chemistry?
I also mused about whether or not my daily meditation practice had altered my brain chemistry to produce these beneficial effects.
I noted that researchers found that meditation affects the neurophysiology of ADHD. In other words, it changes the balance of neurotransmitters like dopamine, creating a beneficial effect. I also pointed out that for an ADHDer with tons of hyperactivity, meditation was only possible when I had the multiple stimuli of holding beads, chanting aloud, and gazing at an ornate scroll. This was the only kind of meditation that overcame my usual antsy, hyperactive movement.
Yoga for brain vitality
Recently, I heard about a new yoga program offered locally by Sat Dharam Kaur, B.Sc., B.A., a naturopath, author and yoga instructor. The program’s title, “Brain Vitality with Kundalini Yoga,” got my attention as I wondered if it might be something valuable for us ADHDers.
My interview with Kaur left me very excited and wanting to share the information with you. Sure enough, turns out my intuitive interpretations of the experiences I had through chanting have a basis in science, and a long history in the kundalini yoga tradition.
Chanting to change
Kaur explained that while chanting, 84 meridian points on the upper palate were stimulated, creating all kinds of beneficial brain chemistry alterations. Go figure.
Apparently this, and other kinds of yoga, involves the science of Naad, or the use of sound. Again, my interview with Kaur was revealing.
Kaur believes that ADHD is more common today because we’re more inundated with neurotoxins in utero. Thus, in her new 13-week Kundalini yoga class, she talks about the necessity of detoxification, balancing neurotransmitters using breathing techniques, chanting, and yoga, and other topics related to brain health.
While it’s hard to reverse that initial onslaught of toxins, she says, it is possible to treat ADHD by balancing the brain’s chemistry. According to Kaur and other researchers, ADHDers are more affected by stressors. When the body is stressed, cortisol levels are elevated. Yoga, chanting and breath work can all be used to balance cortisol levels, synchronize the brain hemispheres, stimulate the frontal lobe (the area responsible for executive functioning, which is said to be faulty in those of us with ADHD), and to help regulate the hypothalamus, strengthen the adrenal glands and balance neurotransmitters.
While this might sound like gobbledegoop, there’s science behind this ancient approach to a brain tune-up. With the advent of the electroencephalogram (EEG), we can measure brain activity, monitoring brain states when we’re relaxed, revved up, or asleep. We know when we’re focusing on something, our Alpha state predominates and productivity, learning, creativity and concentration all increase.
(from The Secrets of Yoga website)
According to happyyogi.net, Naad, or reciting mantras (chanting), can affect our brain’s activity in a beneficial way as follows:
“There are 84 meridian points located on the hard palate of the roof of the mouth. The movement of each part of the tongue stimulates these meridian points. The points are like a keyboard input to a computer. The computer is located in the hypothalamus area of the brain. It receives the impulses from the repetition of the patterns of sound in the [Mantra]. This is translated into instructions that regulate chemical messengers that go to all vital areas of the brain and body. The hypothalamus lies just bellow the thalamus in the middle of the brain. It is connected by blood vessels to the pituitary gland, the master gland of the body. The hypothalamus is known to regulate vital functions like hunger, drinking, body temperature and sleep. It also triggers the regulations of moods, emotional behavior and sexuality.”
Chanting’s effect on executive functioning in ADHD ers
Of particular benefit to ADHDers is the affect of chanting on frontal lobe activity. The frontal lobe is said to be responsible for executive functioning, a function of the brain that is underdeveloped in ADHDers, rendering us incapable of pulling it all together to be successful. Executive functioning is said to provide the ability to plan, organize, keep track of time, complete tasks on time, control emotions, and much more. (For more information on executive function, click here).
The website The Secrets of Yoga states:
“In studies performed at Arizona University, it was shown through a PET scan how a change occurred in the activity of the brain from the frontal part to the parietal part during the chanting of the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma. This change indicated an improvement in mood and alertness.”
A drug-free approach to treating ADHD
It appears that my perception of chanting as altering my sense of time, allowing me to be better organized and efficient, stabilizing my emotions, etc., was indeed grounded in altered brain chemistry. Even better, all it cost me was time, a bit of effort and commitment, and had no negative side-effects. It’s a technique I plan to explore further, perhaps in one of Sat Dharham Kaur’s upcoming Brain Vitality classes. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Kessler, Z. (2012). Mantra Meditation: an ADHD Panacea?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 8, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2010/06/mantra-meditation-an-adhd-panacea/