Monday, January 21, 2019

Yoga and ADHD/ADD

Lotus by Martiros Sarian
by Krista Hrin

I teach yoga because it is an activity I am passionate about. It helped me connect with myself, and in turn I want to help others connect to themselves, too. My clients come from all walks of life; some are young, some are old, some have round bodies, and some are thin. The commonality is that they all have a story and within that story lies their ability to connect with yoga on their mat, with some type of attention span. 

I teach a class called Focus Within that is geared towards those with ADHD/ADD, although all are welcomed. ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition where some people experience inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The symptoms differ from person to person. (ADHD was formerly called ADD, or attention deficit disorder.) Both children and adults can have ADHD, but the symptoms almost always begin in childhood. Adults with ADHD may have trouble managing time, being organized, setting goals, and holding down a job. Living with ADHD/ADD is an experience which many of us have not had. Can you imagine trying to concentrate on something, such as stillness, in a room full of strangers during Savasana?

When I started planning to teach this group, I wondered: Was yoga something that someone with ADHD/ADD would shy away from because of environment, movements, or even stillness? Would the expectations be too demanding? And while the goal of choice for many is breath work, connectedness, or calmness to engage in the silence of the moment, for some of my clients finding stillness or being completely quiet is a rare occasion and one that does not come easily. Connecting to breath is a difficult skill.

How could I possibly expect someone with ADHD/ADD to be able to feel that my yoga classes are accessible to them? That was a question weighing particularly heavily on my mind. After befriending one of my clients, I started to work with them one on one to understand their thought processes and learn how to make yoga inclusive and accessible for those who may be affected by ADHD/ADD. What could I offer? A thought emerged: a class of choice and flexibility that could be chosen beforehand, given options to know step by step. Brilliant! And a step-by-step written guide accessible online to prepare the student to help understand the class concepts and be aware of the happenings. Know the surrounding, follow through with the steps—no surprises.

These classes are smaller in size, offer a step-by-step instruction of what would happen throughout the class, repetition in instruction, and engaging conversation. Unlike a typical yoga classwhere you would typically listen to the instructor and not deviate from the instructions these classes gave freedom to those who could not still their minds and concentrate on the actions of the instructor. They allowed for tapping your hand or foot on the ground as you counted melodic rhythms to the beats of some form of chanting or song. They allowed each participant to connect with their breath when they felt comfortable. They gave extra time to become comfortable on their mat.

Flowing through the poses, I give cues and then reminders, allowing time for transitions, so each student is able to get into the correct pose if their mind wandered. I would see some who are on another page but giving those cues to remind where their right foot should be help get the room into a space where comfort is achieved in the pose or in the space they are in at the moment.

The key to success was adapting my style to help those who really wanted the class. Although these students may be labelled, we try not to categorize their ailments. The classes prepared for those with ADHD/ADD include calculating the time for realignment, reengagement of the senses, and breath and balance when ready. This is a class that encompasses the students own needs while not separating them from traditional yoga class concepts, such as breath connectivity, sequential movement, and Savasana..

At the end of our class we sit together, not in complete silence or even stillness, but with the intention of being present. We allow ourselves to be thankful for surrendering to our practice, for our breath, and just being. Savasana can be achieved by all; we just have to be accepting of the difference in what each Savasana may look or feel like. My class Focus Within allows each and every participant to feel connected and be in their yoga as it was meant to be, personal and free.

Krista Hrin, RYT500 lives in Niagara, ON, where she teaches yoga to those who are in need. She offers various classes of chair yoga, trauma-informed yoga, and basically yoga for all. She is a student of Amanda Tripp Yoga in St. Catharines, ON and Amara Vidya in Gananoque, ON. Krista’s mission is to help those whose bodies cannot move in the ways we typically would see move, increase awareness, and bring about positivity in mind, body and soul. Instagram: @yogabykae 

This post was edited by Nina Zolotow, co-editor of the Accessible Yoga blog and Editor in Chief of Yoga for Healthy Aging.

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