7 - Meditation Conner Downey via Compfight

In Yoga and ADHD Treatment – Part I, I talked about some similarities between the discipline of yoga and ADHD treatment. Today, I’ll cover some specific yoga components that might be helpful in managing ADHD symptoms.

Be prepared for some surprises!

A few of my favorite yoga things

Besides wearing comfy, funky Lululemon clothes (with the notable exception of the see-through pants, that’s just not a good look for me), I gained a lot of positive benefits from my experience as a member of a Kripalu Yoga Centre oh-so-many years ago.

To this day (some 30 years later) I can remember a sequence of yoga postures that flow together, one after the other, making up my morning yoga routine.

I also learned about proper inhale and exhale techniques from my yoga teacher (and about which pants ride up your butt faster than others), but when I started reading The Yoga of the Yogi by Kausthub Desikachar I realized that there’s a lot more to it than that.

I learned that a multitude of disciplines fall under the umbrella of yoga. Here’s a sampling of some that have particular relevance for those of us with ADHD. Keep in mind that like ADHD treatment, these practices aren’t meant to be used in isolation, but in combination, depending on what would be the most beneficial for the student.

Asanas

Yoga: a discipline where “posing” is actually a good thing.

Yoga: a discipline where “posing” is actually a good thing.

Asana is the original term for what is today the best-known component of yoga: specific body postures, each offering unique benefits. Asanas are done either statically or dynamically in sequence, and are accompanied by mastery of the breath.

Regulating our breathing is not, as one might think, used to mask the fact that we’re out of shape. Paying attention to our breath by consciously slowing, deepening, and regulating it relieves stress, calms emotions, and helps us to focus. Taking it outside of yoga class, this practice could be useful in emotionally charged or stressful situations.

Dhyanam

Dhyanam is a fancy-schmancy (Sanskrit) word for meditation, which is the most important tool in yoga according to Desikachar. Much has been written about the benefits of meditation in managing ADHD.

Desikachar’s book reminded me of Thom Hartmann’s Attention Deficit Disorder: a Different Perception. Desikachar and Hartmann talk about different types of meditation and the different kinds of focus they induce, and Hartmann relates this specifically to its effect on ADHD.

Pranayama

Pranayama teaches specific techniques that allow us to regulate our breathing, whether or not we’re doing asanas. It’s one of the most powerful tools of yoga, and I agree with experts who suggest that breath control might be helpful in managing our ADHD (see my comments about breath control under “Asanas” above).

Yama

Yama was another exciting discovery in The Yoga of the Yogi. Yama is about making good choices in social relationships, a challenge that’s all too common for late-diagnosed adults. There are five aspects to yama practice: non-violence, honest communication, refraining from stealing, being faithful in a relationship, and non-coveting.

With stats showing a higher incidence of incarceration; relationship problems and divorce; impulsive, quick tempers  and so on in adults with ADHD it’s easy to see where yama practice might come in handy.

Niyama

Desikachar writes, “We are tormented by low self-esteem, lack of confidence, etc. These emotions dramatically impact our daily lives.”

No kidding.

Niyama practice cultivates a healthy, positive attitude towards ourselves, which leads to better lifestyle choices. I can see where this might be beneficial to those who self-medicate with harmful or illegal substances; who are people-pleasers at their own expense; or anyone who’s internalized the message that we’re failures or somehow less than others.

Pratyahara

I was also surprised when I read about pratyahara, which teaches the appropriate use of the senses.

I’ve written about the emotional and physical hypersensitivities of people with ADHD and was struck by the goal of pratyahara: “Rather than controlling us, we control the senses.” This sounds like a pretty good practice for us super-sensitive types.

Svadhyaya

Svadhyaya is self-inquiry through counseling. Yup. Therapy. Another – often crucial – component to ADHD treatment.

As if speaking directly to people with ADHD (he isn’t) Desikachar writes, “We don’t see our behaviors, because they are so much a part of us and have become habitual.” People with ADHD often lack self-awareness and might benefit from Svadhyaya practice (just don’t try to pronounce it).

Yajna

Finally, we have yajna, or ritual. Not the sacrificing a virgin under a full-moon kind of ritual (I don’t think they’re legal anymore), but ritual in the sense of making order out of chaos.

Desikachar writes, “In some cases, we get into trouble because there is no order in our life.” And I think you and I both know who he’s talking about.

When life is in chaos and disarray, ritual comes to the rescue by teaching us to become more aware of our daily actions and to perform them more mindfully. Yes – you may finally learn how to stop losing your keys.

So there you go folks: whether you’re into sweats or spandex, bending or breathing, for a holistic, non-pharmaceutical approach to ADHD try yoga.

 

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    Last reviewed: 16 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). Yoga and ADHD Treatment – Part II. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2014/01/yoga-and-adhd-treatment-part-ii/

 

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