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Focusing on A.D.D

Adults and children living with Attention Deficit Disorder know the daily struggles of hyperactivity, social isolation, and drug side effects. But yoga may help control these symptoms as well as reduce long-term dependency on medication.

By Fernando Pagés Ruiz

But beyond its role in physiological equilibrium, researchers are discovering that the vestibular system plays a vital role in behavioral and cognitive stability. "There's a fundamental kind of coordination that patterns behavior so it makes sense and flows together, which is believed to be deficient in those with ADD," says Eugene Arnold, M.Ed., M.D., an ADHD specialist at Ohio State University and formerly with the National Institute of Mental Health.

To this end, Randolph employs asanas like Tolasana (Scales Pose) and an exercise she's dubbed Roll Asana, in which the student rocks back and forth on the floor like a teeter-totter. Each new position in yoga provides a different plane of stimulation for the neurological circuits of the vestibular system. Inverted positions, such as Sirsasana (Headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) are especially beneficial because they also calm the nervous system and help curb hyperactivity while training the attention system. Near the end of class, Randolph guides Clayton through a series of relaxation poses to calm his breath, quiet his mind, and prepare for meditation. Meditation lasts approximately one minute—which can seem like a lifetime for ADD children.

After four months of yoga, Clayton can finally complete a half-hour yoga session, flowing from one posture to the next with minimum interruption. Though Clayton's significant progress in yoga has not yet translated into better concentration at school, it's difficult to imagine that the focus he has developed in yoga would be confined to the sticky mat. On at least one occasion, Clayton says he used techniques learned in meditation to train his attention during a mathematics exam. On another, his mother spotted him practicing Bakasana (Crane Pose) in the outfield during Little League—although, unfortunately, he wasn't paying much attention to the game.

His yoga teacher accepts this gradual pace as a fact of life. "Quieting the mind is a long haul for any of us," says Randolph. "It can be an epic journey for those with ADD, but they need it most." Talking with Clayton about his yoga practice, one gets the sense that he's found something important and personal at which he can excel—a refuge for his spirit and a tool for establishing harmony between his body and mind.

After several years of yoga, Askew knows it takes that kind of full-time commitment to manage the symptoms of ADD. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes yoga has helped Askew cope with her condition. It gives her confidence to know she can gain mental clarity on her own—without a pill. "Yoga," says Askew, "involves learning how to manage attention and learning how to move fluidly from focusing on the details to the big picture."

Contributing Editor Fernando Pagés Ruiz wrote "What Is Consciousness?" in the September/October 2001 issue of Yoga Journal. He lives and writes in Lincoln, Nebraska, and can be reached at Fpages@neb.rr.com.

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Reader Comments

Meaghan

A great intro presentation about yoga:
http://www.wepapers.com/Papers/92152/YOGA.ppt

Ann

I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 34, just this year. I went through life with no self-esteem, self-worth, or confidence.
Like Mary Alice, I was lost and disorganized from class to class. I unfortunately went undiagnosed and by the time I was 22 I was in and out of hospitals and therapy sessions and treated for mental problems I did not have.
My son is ADHD, I recognized it quckily and have been struggling with his behavioral problems and everything involved with being a parent of an ADHD child.
I started doing Vinyasha Yoga about 3 months ago. I had tried Power Yoga but it agitated my mind and tension in my body more than it helped, so I dropped out of it.
I am on Adderall for the ADHD and I had to adjust to a sudden peace with in my mind. I was scared to death of the silence, then I decided to go to the yoga class offered at the gym. It has changed my body and mind as described in the article. I do have a long way to go to achieve the state Mary Alice has come to find. However, I am always thrilled by yoga, I go into it excited and ready but holding on to worries and other problems, but by the end of a practice or class I am alive and awake in my mind, body, and soul but also wrapped in calm. Just recently I have started practice everyday at home inbetween classes. It is greatly reducing my everyday stress.
After I read this article I was able to understand many things I have questioned lately. I mentioned to my husband a couple of days ago about the fact that I have stuck to the practice of Vinyasha and how it has affected me. He pointed out the fact that I have become happy with my body as well. Not just mentally and spiritually it has, as put in the article, made me aware of myself and comfortable in my own skin. Typing that made my eyes tear up.
I am going to get the DVD for yoga for special children and work my son into it. There are no yoga classes around here for his age group, they do have it for 6-8 and 13-16 but nothing inbetween. Until then I will have to assist with poses and breathe before we can practice together. He does like trying poses already. I was practicing The Crane the first time it was introduced to me in class, my son comes along and starts doing the same movements I was and the little stinker did it on the first try. We laughed and for a moment were able to connect.
Your article was full of answers and possibilities for myself but it also pointed me in the right direction for helping my son but not leaving me blinded to the hardships and time it will take to see the benefits it will have for him in the long run.
Thank you.

Gail

Can anyone tell me the date of this article???

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