Practicing yoga can help reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because yoga focuses on breath control and mindfulness, it can help people with ADHD stay present and remain focused.

ADHD makes it difficult for individuals to maintain their focus, manage their energy levels, and control their impulses. However, some research suggests yoga may benefit people with the condition.

Regularly practicing yoga can strengthen the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that may be smaller or have reduced function in some people with ADHD. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, planning, and focus –– all of which are more difficult for a person with ADHD to regulate.

Read on to learn more about how yoga can help people with ADHD. There are also some examples of yoga poses to try.

A parent and child doing yoga, which can help people with ADHD.Share on Pinterest
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Yoga can help people with ADHD manage their symptoms and increase their focus.

One 2017 study showed that in children with ADHD, their attention and reaction time improved after 8 weeks of practicing yoga twice per week. The findings suggest this activity can be an effective complementary therapy in addition to medication and psychological treatments, such as therapy.

Similarly, a 2019 study of young children showed that 12 weeks of yoga improved their hyperactivity and inattention symptoms.

However, a review of multiple studies noted that while much research did conclude yoga can help children with ADHD, many studies did not look at a diverse sample of children. With this in mind, more research is necessary to understand further how yoga can benefit a broader population of people with ADHD.

Most studies investigating ADHD and yoga looked at children, but adults may experience similar benefits. However, more research is also necessary in this area.

Yoga offers a variety of benefits, regardless of whether or not an individual has ADHD. When a person starts regular yoga practice, they may experience:

  • lower stress levels
  • pain relief, especially in the lower back and neck areas
  • relief from tension headache
  • weight management
  • better mental health

Yoga may also improve ADHD symptoms in some individuals.

According to one 2018 study, when preschoolers with primarily inattentive ADHD practiced yoga three to four times per week, they experienced:

  • a reduction in inattentive symptoms
  • a reduction in hyperactive-inattentive symptoms
  • improved attention

However, the researchers noted that impulsivity did increase in some children after practicing yoga. Therefore, more research on yoga for ADHD is necessary to understand the activity’s effect on symptoms and why.

In recent years, researchers have shown an increasing interest in understanding how yoga affects the brain.

One 2019 review gathered the results of brain imaging studies. Researchers wanted to observe the differences in the scans of people who practiced yoga and those who did not.

They observed the scans of the individuals who practiced yoga had structural and functional improvements in:

  • the hippocampus, which processes memories and aids in learning
  • the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions
  • the prefrontal cortex, which manages executive function, memory, language, and knowledge

These changes could explain the mental health benefits people report after starting yoga.

Additionally, changes in the prefrontal cortex may also explain why some individuals with ADHD notice improvements in their symptoms after practicing yoga. The prefrontal cortex may not work as efficiently in those with the condition, so focusing on activities that strengthen this area could reduce executive function symptoms, such as inattention and a lack of time awareness.

Learn more about yoga and the brain.

Practicing yoga in any form can benefit someone with ADHD. However, a person may wish to consider adding certain poses that allow for meditation and reflection.

A 2015 review showed that mindfulness meditation could help adults manage their ADHD symptoms better, although more research is necessary to understand this link. Practicing yoga poses that allow for mindfulness and meditation may be beneficial for adults with ADHD.

Individuals can try the following poses.

1. Easy pose

Dima Bazak
  1. Begin on the floor, seated on a blanket or mat.
  2. Place each foot under the opposite knee.
  3. Place both hands on each knee.
  4. Look straight ahead and relax.
  5. Slowly close the eyes.
  6. Hold this pose for several breaths or the length of the meditation session.

2. Savasana pose, variation

Dima Bazak

  1. Begin by lying down on the body’s side.
  2. Place the arms beside the body and keep a soft bend in the knees.
  3. Place a yoga block, rolled towel, or pillow beneath the head.
  4. Relax the face and close the eyes. Focus on breathing.
  5. Stay in this pose for several minutes.

3. Cobra pose variation

Dima Bazak
  1. Begin by laying on the stomach.
  2. Plant the palms in front of the chest in line with the shoulders.
  3. Gently push up until the entire stomach is off the ground. Keep the shoulders back and neck long.
  4. Inhale and exhale in this pose.
  5. Lower back down and repeat.

Choosing yoga poses that focus on animal names or visual cues is a useful way to get children excited about yoga. Creating a story with different animal characters will hold their attention and make their yoga session more enjoyable.

1. Downward facing dog

Dima Bazak
  1. Begin the pose on the hands and knees.
  2. Stretch the elbows.
  3. Exhale and lift the knees off the floor, pressing the heels towards the floor.
  4. Optionally, stretch one foot up and back. Then repeat with the other leg.

2. Tree pose

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  1. Stand with the weight of the body equally distributed across both feet.
  2. Begin to shift the weight onto the right foot.
  3. Bend the left leg and bring the sole of the left foot up to the right inner thigh. If this is not possible, place the foot on the inner right calf.
  4. Focus on a stationary object in the distance to balance.
  5. Hold for five to ten breaths and repeat on the other side.

3. Cat-cow pose

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  1. Get onto the hands and knees, placing the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips.
  2. With each exhale, round the back. Pull the belly button into the spine.
  3. With each inhale, gently drop the belly and arch the back. Keep the chest open and neck long.

Yoga is an effective tool for people with ADHD. Combining yoga with other mindfulness practices, such as meditation, can help individuals focus and improve their attention.

Beginner yoga poses adults can practice include easy pose, corpse pose, and thunderbolt pose. When introducing young children to yoga, choose poses that relate to concrete objects or animals, for example, tree and butterfly pose.

While research on yoga and its application to ADHD is promising, it is not a replacement for therapy and medication. Therefore, a person should always contact a doctor if they are experiencing side effects from stimulants.