There are too many news articles making the rounds on the internet recently regarding kids yoga and ADHD. All claiming, whether explicitly or not, that kids who practice yoga will cure their ADHD. This is false. And frankly, this reductionist statement is harmful to both families who are neurodiverse and to yoga itself. But first, the pressing question…
Will yoga cure my child’s ADHD?
No. It will not. ADHD is complex and looks different for everyone. More importantly, there is no single “cure”. Many people even think that goals for eradication are ableist and unrealistic since ADHD is not something that needs to be fixed. People ought to be accepted unconditionally, and should be able to decide for themselves what works best. Instead, the focus has been on understanding that brains are wired differently, yet social structures are only accommodating to specific ideas of acceptability. With that in mind, our whole set of expectations insofar as the relationship between yoga and ADHD, are redefined. Our focus can be on how yoga benefits everyone. A yoga practice is beneficial for quieting the mind and body, for restructuring our behavior, and for becoming more mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions. These are the changes researchers have seen.
It’s an additional tool
What do we hope to get from a yoga class? Gaining awareness and control of ourselves. We celebrate how that one hour practice influences our daily lives and helps us feel more peaceful. Yoga philosophy helps us become more accepting of others. Practicing ahimsa means that we help create more flexible social expectations of behavior. We also become more disciplined in a positive, yet discerning manner learning about tapas. Movement and relaxation are integral to yoga and our well-being. So, we move and relax; we breathe and reflect. These are the same things parents want for their children, especially those with ADHD and executive functioning disorder.. By re-framing expectations of a cure, and looking at positive gains, it’s clear that yoga is an additional tool your child can use to move in the world more seamlessly in conjunction with medication, CBT, and whatever else their care team feels works.
Yoga peeps…are you listening…
This is an important revelation for yoga itself too. By touting it as a cure, not only is the yoga community hurting people, we are shooting ourselves in the feet. Yoga doesn’t have to be a cure. Its merits are strong enough to stand alone for many people for various reasons. But what happens when yoga isn’t for someone? What happens when what’s been billed as the next best thing fails because it has been mispurposed and simplified in the first place? People won’t trust that a yoga practice is fun nor meaningful because we’ve erroneously reduced it to an unnecessary cure. It’s complementary and that is great!
It’s just a happy accident that yoga works so well for managing ADHD for a lot of folks. It’s a great addition to the toolbox, but isn’t and shouldn’t be the only there.