Last year, I stepped up my commitment to yoga practice. For inspiration, I picked up a book called The Yoga of the Yogi, written by Kausthub Desikachar.
Desikachar’s book fuelled my hypothesis that yoga has the potential to be tremendously helpful to those of us with the Gift.
The popularized notion of yoga leads us to believe that it’s merely a form of exercise where we turn ourselves into human pretzels and balloon animals. As fun as that sounds, yoga is much more than that, and its primary focus is the mind, not the body.
yoga is to direct the mind on a chosen focus and maintain that focus without distraction
– from the Yoga Sutra by historic yoga master Patanjali, as quoted in The Yoga of the Yogi
Although my goal in reading The Yoga of the Yogi was to refresh my knowledge and motivate me in my practice, I was amazed at the many parallels between effective ADHD treatment and the ancient, traditional philosophy and approach behind the discipline of yoga.
Similar to the ADHD multimodal mantra, Desikachar writes that in yoga there is no “one pill cures all” approach. Historically, says Desikachar, a yoga teacher tailored his approach to each student’s needs. Each yoga practice was customized drawing from a number of disciplines (which I’ll talk about in Yoga and ADHD Treatment – Part II).
Personalized approach across the lifespan
Like ADHD treatment, yoga can be customized to appropriately address our needs at each stage of life. I’m not referring to simply modifying the physical postures (asanas) to accommodate aging bodies (although that may be part of it); it’s more that the yoga practice takes into account age-related interests, priorities, and individual needs of the practitioner. For example, a child would typically be given more physical movements. This jibes with (and may be an effective treatment for) an ADHD child’s physical hyperactivity. Contrast this with the internalized mental hyperactivity of an ADHD adult, who might benefit more from meditation.
Traditionally, a yoga teacher would take into account everything from the geographical location where the student lived, to what their occupation was; they’d look at the individual’s innate abilities (mental, emotional, physical, etc.) and how much time they could devote to practice, and much more in order to devise the best program to help each person. As in effective ADHD treatment, one’s yoga program would be tweaked over time as needed.
Customized approaches for women
Today’s most savvy ADHD experts are starting to recognize what we Chick A-D-D’s already know: men and women’s different brains and physiology mean we have different needs in treating our ADHD.
Desikachar’s book shows that even Nathamuni, a yogi master born in 823 AD, recognized in his writings that women (especially those who were pregnant) had different needs and challenges and therefore offered customized teachings to help them.
Psychological and spiritual concerns
Perhaps the most important task for a late-diagnosed adult is to heal the psychological and spiritual suffering from living with undiagnosed ADHD. Author Desikachar says healing psychological and spiritual suffering is also the overriding goal of yoga practice.
Have you had a good experience with yoga in managing your ADHD? Let us know!
In Yoga and ADHD Treatment – Part II I share some of the components of yoga practice that have the most potential to help us manage our ADHD. Stay tuned!