Yoga and breathing exercises help kids with ADHD stay focused

While prescription medications are often the go-to solution for treating ADHD symptoms in children, a recent study from scientists in Russia shows that yoga and deep breathing exercises may just do the trick too.

As part of the research, psychologists at Ural Federal University (UrFU) studied 16 children with ADHD between the ages of six and seven. The findings showed that yoga and deep breathing classes can help kids with ADHD decrease hyperactivity, improve their ability to control attention, boost sustained energy levels, and engage in complex activities for longer periods of time.

“For children with ADHD, as a rule, the part of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of brain activity – the reticular formation – is deficient,” says study leader Sergey Kiselev. “This leads to the fact that they often experience states of inadequate hyperactivity, increased distraction and exhaustion, and their functions of regulation and control suffer a second time.”

In the study, researchers used a deep breathing technique called diaphragmatic breathing, or ‘belly breathing’, which helps improve the supply of oxygen to the brain and helps the reticular formation perform better. “When the reticular formation receives enough oxygen, it begins to better regulate the child’s state of activity,” explains Kiselev.

In addition to breathing exercises, the researchers taught the children body-oriented techniques emphasizing “tension-relaxation” as well. As part of the training, each child attended yoga sessions three times per week over the course of three months. On top of having immediate benefits, explains Kiselev, exercising also has a long-term positive effect on regulation and control functions in children with ADHD.

This happens because the child’s correct breathing is automated, it becomes a kind of assistant that allows a better supply of oxygen to the brain, which, in turn, has a beneficial effect on the behavior and psyche of a child with ADHD,” Kiselev adds.

Next, the team plans to conduct larger studies involving more participants of different age groups.

Source study: Biological Psychiatry

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