Yoga Therapy – an Alternate Way of Looking at ADHD

Dr. Smita Gautam

Consultant Homoeopath & Yoga Therapist

Millions of school aged children, as well as a large number of adults, are diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. Although estimates vary from 1 percent to 20 percent, most researchers believe that approximately 5-8 percent or more of children have this disorder. Today, the vast majority of these children as well as adults are put on medication as the main feature of their treatment. Given that long-term medications can ameliorate ADHD symptoms but may also have negative side-effects such as sleep disturbances, reduced appetite, and mood disorders, involving physical activity can serve as a low-risk treatment for ADHD symptoms.

Yoga is an age-old discipline developed and practiced in our country and more recently introduced and popularized throughout the World.  Practicing Yoga is considered as physical discipline of breathing and body postures designed to strengthen and cleanse the body as a part of our spiritual philosophy.

Recent researches suggest that Yoga Exercises shows promise as an effective treatment, reporting improvement in measures of interference control, set shifting, consistency in response speed, vigilance and impulsive control among individuals with ADHD.

Therapeutic Yoga has been found to be a feasible school intervention for children with emotional and behavioural disorders and can be effective in ameliorating the symptoms that also pervasively occur in children with ADHD, such as inattention and bad adaptive skills in class. Yoga, being different from normal physical exercise, its practicing steers individuals to master certain breathing techniques, postures, and cognitive control which can help promote self-control, attention, body awareness, and stress management.

Role of Yoga Therapy

Yoga uses body postures and breathing practices to strengthen muscles, improve balance, increase body awareness, allow greater range of joint motion, promote relaxation and emotional regulation. Yoga Therapy uses props and modified practices to allow people with disabilities to experience the same benefits. In essence, the practice of yoga exercise elicits reduced activation of the sympathetic nervous system and increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in a sense of equilibrium into the body and mind, and increased emotional self-regulation. Yoga

Strengthening Motor Functioning

Here! yoga works on the child’s fundamental ability to use his nervous system and control his body in a healthy, age-appropriate way. This would include balancing, coordination, movement, integrating left and right body parts, hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, and the like. Yoga Therapy sessions incorporate challenges to the muscles in the trunk (hips, tummy, back, sides, neck), upper extremities (shoulders, arms), and weight bearing in the hands during fine motor treatment.


Most of us seldom pay any attention to the way we breathe.  In fact, majority of the people are “shallow breathers”.  This means that we are not aware of the tendency to breathe into our chest, filling only the upper portion of the lungs. These short shallow breaths result in respiration which is inefficient because you breathe many more shallow breaths to get adequate oxygen into the circulatory system.  Shallow breathing actually creates the “fight or flight” stress response in the body.  Breathing is one of the few autonomic body systems over which we have control e.g. we can immediately and directly slow down and deepen the breath.  Most of the children are unaware of their breathing pattern. Children with disabilities may be even less aware of their breath. Some children even habitually and unintentionally hold their breath.  Awareness of the breath can be difficult and sometimes confusing for children, especially ADHD/ADD. Thus breathing awareness becomes one of the most challenging lessons in Yoga Therapy Session. For children who struggle with symptoms of emotional regulation, mood swings, anxiety, or lethargy, breathing techniques can help greatly to modulate the body and bring calmness in mind.

Body Awareness

One of greatest benefits of yoga for children with ADHD/ADD is increased body awareness. Coordinating with breathing and movement during asanas practice together becomes the first level of work.  For example, lifting an arm with inhalation and lowering with exhalation not only helps with motor control and planning, and provides an inner sense of rhythm. Performing more complex tasks like learning to flex or tighten a muscle or being able to correctly identify the thigh, ankle, wrist and chin helps kids embody the words they hear used so often, gives students a sense of power and self-esteem.

Though, Yoga is often not thought of as therapy, there is a growing body of practitioners who use the methods and techniques of yoga as a therapeutic tool in various populations, setting, and disabilities.  And Yoga therapy is being recognized as a stand-alone therapeutic tool or combined with another discipline can be of great benefit for those with disabilities and in need of physical rehabilitation.