ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral disorder formally defined as a significant deficiency in age-appropriate attention, impulse control and rule-governed behavior, which manifests in early childhood. Associated behaviors include: hyperactivity; speaking or acting before one thinks; difficulty in following instructions; poor organizational skills; restlessness; impatience; forgetfulness; low self-esteem; and poor social skills. Children with ADHD find it difficult to slow down, even when they want to; often they are so hurried that they seem clumsy and uncoordinated.
Some experts believe that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there is no documented proof that this is actually the case. The incidence of ADHD varies from 3 to 15 percent for school age population, depending on the strictness of the diagnosis. Sometimes referred to as ADD/WH or "minimal brain dysfunction," children with ADHD generally do not perform well in school, though most of them test at average or above average intelligence.
Currently, more than four million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. There are many factors contributing to this behavioral disorder: TV violence; poor nutrition; prenatal drug use by parents; sensory overload; pollution; crowding; and the breakdown of the family structure. Yoga uses physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and deep relaxation techniques to calm and strengthen the central nervous system. It helps children and teenagers with ADHD get in touch with their bodies in a relaxed and non-competitive way. There is also a spiritual side to Yoga that grounds its practitioners in their own silence and internal awareness - something that is becoming increasingly difficult to experience with the frenzied pace of life today.
Children with ADHD often experience learning delays due to their hyperactivity and distractibility. Yoga teachers will usually find it easiest to introduce pranayama and a few asanas to these children before attempting to teach them an entire Yoga routine. This will help them to calm down enough to follow instructions. Alternate nostril breathing will be of particular benefit to children with ADHD because of its ability to calm the mind and to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Teaching these children proper respiration is an important aspect of their Yoga training. Once the child with ADHD is able to follow instructions, the Yoga teacher can gradually introduce more asanas and the deep relaxation portion of the Yoga routine.