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 www.chadd.org.