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Focus on ADHD

Studies prescribe yoga for ADHD.

By Jenny Andrews

Will yoga be the next prescribed treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? An estimated 2.5 million children between 4 and 17 take Ritalin, Adderall XR, Strattera, and other prescribed drugs for the disorder. Unfortunately, the FDA has concluded that some of these drugs carry a troublesome risk of mania and hypomania, and may be associated with suicidal impulses.

As concerns about the safety of these drugs grow, researchers in Australia and Germany have found that children with ADHD may find relief and improved focus with yoga. "Yoga can be a lifetime friend," says Pauline Jensen, coauthor of a 2004 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders. "It increases concentration, promotes mental and physical discipline, and induces confidence." Though parents in Jensen's research reported that the 8- to 13-year-old boys who practiced yoga once a week for five months were less hyperactive, the findings did not conclude that a yoga practice could replace drug treatment.

However, a 2006 German study found that children undergoing drug treatment for ADHD can greatly benefit from a yoga practice and that forward bends are particularly effective. "Forward bends increase exhalation by lengthening and deepening the breath," says the study's coauthor, Nicole Goldstein, M.D. "This is key in developing concentration."

For more information on ADHD and new treatments, check out Children and Adults with ADHD at

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Oh, and for others interested in using yoga with people with disabilities, there's a certification program called Yoga For The Special Child. Yes, the name is a bit patronizing and ableist, but the approach is very clinically sound.


Megan, I would say no, not DVDs. There is a lot of research showing that electronic media exposure increases AD/HD-like patterns in the brain. People with AD/HD generally benefit from spending more time tuned in to other people and less time with electronic media (if at all). A yoga class or lessons would probably be more appropriate.

For the record, I'm not in any way an anti-TV/computer/videogame zealot, but I'm a neuropsychologist, and research and experience shows that learning from people and from hands-on activities helps AD/HD, while electronic media exacerbates it. Basically, the best kinds of activities for people with AD/HD or other disorganized/impulsive neurology are those that provide tons of input (especially tactile/vestibular), yet it's a really calm and focused input. Yoga is a great one, as are Waldorf-type activities like clay, fabric dolls, high quality art materials, etc. Listening to music (especially live music) that's loud and full but not fast or rapidly changing, no words or few words is also great.


No one will ever say drugs will replace yoga. There is too much propaganda, investment and mindset in society that says you can't replace but it will "help" with symptoms. Scientist will get crucified for saying no need for drugs. A bad example is Tom Cruise's opinion of not needing meds for depression due to activity killed his career. I don't fully agree but I do think we medicate before any lifestyle changes first.

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