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Why Get Bent Out of Shape? Yoga and ADHD

Julie Lelièvre, CYT
Julie Lelièvre, CYT

I’d been sitting at my desk, spinning my wheels, unable to focus all day. That’s when I remembered Julie’s yoga class.

I might as well go, I thought; I’m not getting anything done here.

At 5:45 p.m., I threw my thick blanket in the car and off I went to Harrison Park. It was a perfect summer’s evening, with a blue sky, a gentle breeze, and a few clouds to keep us cool. I was glad to get away from my computer and knew that if I didn’t force myself to go to class, I might sit well into the evening, accomplishing nothing and becoming frustrated and despondent in the process.

As I drove the winding, descending road into the park, I began to relax, before the yoga even started.

As I stretched I remembered the many comments I’d received since I last posted about yoga and ADHD. Many said, “I’ve tried yoga, but I can’t stick with it.” Or, “I’d like to try it, but I can’t focus.” Or concentrate. Or continue. Or whatever.

Sound familiar?

This got me thinking about what might help those of you who are convinced yoga would be good for you (it will) if only you could do it (you can).

Here are some tips I came up with.

1 ) Find an instructor whose voice you love listening to

Julie’s voice is a combination of authoritative, encouraging, non-judgmental, gentle, and firm with a timbre, pace, and pitch I enjoy. We know all too well how easy it is for us to drift off if someone’s voice is monotonous, irritating, judgmental, or otherwise not engaging – so find someone whose voice you want to listen to, and you’re much more likely to win the battle to pay attention.

Julie has that kind of voice. Plus, she’s from France. For me, the French accent seals the deal, Montreal being my hometown. It’s like a homecoming.

2 ) Find a small class size

For someone who feels like a spazz when attempting anything more physical than sitting in a chair, having a private or semi-private session with less than 5  students is ideal.

This Tuesday’s class was a case in point: while performing the “dolphin” I got stuck mid-breach; because there were just a few of us, I got the extra attention I needed without it being a big deal. I didn’t feel like I was disrupting a big, formal, impersonal production. The ability to ask questions and receive one-on-one instruction mid-session was integral to my feeling competent versus klutzy, and having a gentle, patient instructor helped.

3 ) Find an instructor who’s tolerant of questions

Even if the class size is large, find an instructor who’s open to being interrupted by questions. If it’s a scripted, rigid, or fast-paced class, and you feel you can’t ask for help when you need it, yoga could end up being just one more experience where you feel like a failure. This is the opposite of several goals of yoga: to build self-mastery, self-acceptance, inner peace, and ultimately to bring you outside your normal, egoic state.

Julie Lelièvre, CYT, yoga in the great outdoors!
Julie Lelièvre, CYT, yoga in the great outdoors!

4 ) Do it outdoors

There is increasing evidence that being in nature induces a sense of well-being in humans, especially those of us with “the gift” [of ADHD]. Julie’s class was the second time I’ve done yoga outdoors in a group. The moment I’m sitting on the earth, the sweet smell of grass, trees and plants begins that alchemical change from stressed-out emotionally and tensed-up physically to calmness and relaxation. Yoga and nature is a great combo, and being outdoors might nudge you into success in your yoga practice.

5 ) Find a pay-as-you-go class

Last Tuesday, as I sat frustrated at my desk, I knew if I didn’t get outdoors I’d go totally bonkers. I didn’t need to sign up in advance, plan ahead, or make a commitment to the yoga class, I could just show up.

Those of you who dislike committing in advance to weeks of classes will appreciate a drop-in format. Sometimes, spontaneity can paradoxically be what gets you there on a consistent basis.

6 ) Add a quirky perk

There are tons of yoga instructors and classes in my town. Julie’s had an edge: the offer to “Learn French While Taking a Yoga Class.” We ADHDers often need to stimulate several senses at once to keep ourselves engaged. I’d been wanting to brush up on my French for decades, so the first class I took with Julie was a combined yoga / French class. I may have lucked out on such a combo, but look around, you never know: maybe there’s a quirky combo in your neighborhood as well.

7 ) Take a friend

This tip isn’t specific to those of us with ADHD, and it is the opposite of being spontaneous: make a commitment to go with a friend. It’s like having an accountability partner; the desire to not let down a friend might keep you from letting yourself down, and finally get to that yoga class.

I hope these suggestions tip the scale into a successful yoga practice for you. Let me know how it goes!

To learn more about yoga with Julie Lelièvre, CYT, visit her Facebook Page and her professional profile at YogaTrail.


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Why Get Bent Out of Shape? Yoga and ADHD

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). Why Get Bent Out of Shape? Yoga and ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jul 2014
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