By April Jones

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for transmitting signals between the nerve cells of the brain; it is what stimulates our pleasure system.  Dopamine also strengthens the prefrontal cortex, which controls our personality expression, decision making, social behavior, disruptive behavior as well as mood and anxiety. 

            ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that is marked by hyperactivity and a lack of concentration.  ADHD medications are prescribed due to abnormal levels of dopamine levels in the brain, specifically with children.  There is a plethora of medications that have the propensity to increase dopamine levels; these chemicals include but are not limited to: Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Focaline, and Vyvance. Although the medication controls the symptoms, it also poses serious side effects and can sometimes have a counter effect.  If the symptoms are not controlled in childhood, it will increase the risk of substance abuse in teenagers. 

            Behavior management treatment is more commonly managed with medication therapy; the goal is to reduce symptoms of a child suffering with the condition.  Prescribing the right drug treatment takes research and trial to see what works best for the child.  Drug exposure in a small child can pose immense side effects that will sometimes have long term damage. Some stimulants can cause high blood pressure and speed up heart rate, and non-stimulant medications can cause seizures.  Also, there are some stimulants that are associated with psychiatric disorders like aggression and bipolar. 

            Another aspect of children with ADHD is the environment in which they are raised. Outside of other issues such as depression and low self-esteem, parents can also have an effect on their child’s ADHD symptoms. A dysfunctional home setting for a child can be defined as high levels of physical, mental, and sexual abuse. Parents with persistent alcohol and drug usage also have negative effects on children diagnosed with ADHD. Parents who are not involved, supportive or display negative emotions create more behavioral issues, which will follow the child into the school setting. 

Yoga requires a lot of concentration, and for a patient with ADHD, this helps to exercise and train the mind to focus. It is imperative to teach a child early about focusing and structure. The difference between a child at 4 and a child at 17 is that the behavior of a 4-year-old is easier to redirect.  The behavioral patterns of a 17-year-old are already established, and may be difficult to alter.  In my opinion, Yoga would benefit a younger child more than medication management.  A 4-year-old would be able to grasp the concept and be more receptive than a 17-year-old.  When a technique is introduced to a child at a very young age, they are able to pick up on it more rapidly than an older child, (except in severe cases of ADHD).   

A younger child’s perception is far more advanced if they are taught as early as 2 years old, because they have the ability to develop and learn through creativity.  However; a child’s development also depends on their environment and the direction of their parents.  Yoga plays a role in inducing the child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.  A positive routine is established and the mind becomes free instead of depending on drugs to help stimulate it.  An older child can benefit, but the process is longer and more difficult.  A 17-year-old child has had periods that lacked natural motivation, and have had their condition controlled by medication or never controlled at all. 

Kids need structure at the earliest possible moment; I believe that yoga would have a strong impact on redirecting a child who suffers from ADHD. I am a strong believer in alternative medicine.  I think that yoga should be encouraged in schools and used in place of medication.   The child becomes more severe with age.  Yoga can help one to establish a stronger mind and body connection, and it can train a child’s mindset to be more aware and less impulsive.  The prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that involves focus and impulse control can thicken with meditation.  Dopamine is also increased naturally with yoga, which helps to relieve the symptoms of ADHD. 

The systemic method of prescribing medication to children is growing, and is more generally accepted than other alternative methods. Personally, I feel that ADHD can be hindered through more conducive means; not medication. In some cases, the side effects of said medication can have an adverse effect on the vital organs of the child; the effected organs can include the lungs, heart, and the kidneys. As a result, some children may develop a loss of appetite, which can negatively affect their nutrition. The medication also effects their natural state of mind. In order to cope with the symptoms, children will use them more and more. This can produce a child who only thrives on medication, leaving them in a catatonic state without the prescription. Alternative methods are seldom utilized. Nonetheless, I believe it is possible to redirect a child so that they can properly focus and live a productive life without the intrusion of medication. More often than not, parents and doctors are looking for a short-term remedy, rather than a long-term solution.

In conclusion, the structural and behavioral aspects of yoga can relax the mind, teach breathing techniques, and help the body to normalize without medication. Almost any child can benefit from the effects of yoga, but there has to be a high level of consistency. Consistency is pivotal in training and redirecting the mind to a more positive and serene state. However, it is solely up to the discretion of the parents to make sure that their children are receiving the proper benefits from yoga. Parental involvement is crucial, as is a more structural and organizational setting.  Yoga is the natural solution to combat problems that we face in life.  It enhances, cleanses, and promotes positivity.