YEKATERINBURG, Russia — It can be tough for any child to sit still and focus on a task they perceive as boring. However, it’s especially difficult for kids living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The answer to this problem for a long time has been prescription medications like Adderall or Ritalin. Now, though, a new study is offering up a more natural solution. Russian scientists report yoga and deep breathing classes can help kids with ADHD decrease hyperactivity, improve attention, boost sustained energy levels, and engage in complex activities for longer periods of time.
Psychologists at Ural Federal University studied 16 children with ADHD between the ages of six and seven to reach this conclusion.
“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, head of the Laboratory of Brain and Neurocognitive Development at UrFU, in a university release. “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. We used a special breathing exercise based on the development of diaphragmatic rhythmic deep breathing – belly breathing. Such breathing helps to better supply the brain with oxygen and helps the reticular formation to better cope with its role. When the reticular formation receives enough oxygen, it begins to better regulate the child’s state of activity.”
Exercise can have an ‘immediate effect’ on ADHD
Besides breathing techniques, experts taught the children body-oriented techniques emphasizing “tension-relaxation” as well. Each child attended training sessions three times per week for a total of two to three months.
“Exercise has an immediate effect that appears immediately, but there is also a delayed effect. We found that exercise has a positive effect on regulation and control functions in children with ADHD and one year after the end of the exercise. This happens because the child’s correct breathing is automated, it becomes a kind of assistant that allows 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.
In summation, the research team says their work is promising but ultimately just the beginning. Scientists will need to conduct larger studies with more children before any grand conclusions can be made regarding the relationship between ADHD, yoga, and breathing exercises among adolescents.
The study appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.