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Is Yoga good for my ADHD Brain?

Yoga for Improved Focus, Mood Regulation, and Cognitive Function - Ailsa Middlemas

Reading time: 4 minutes

Like many women, I was only diagnosed in my mid-thirties. One of the most effective tools for managing my ADHD has been time on the mat. In fact, a morning yoga session is among the few habits my scatty brain has stuck to.

So, I did a little reading.

A major part of ADHD is the presence of less dopamine and norepinephrine. These are chemicals which act as neurotransmitters – moving messages around the brain and body. They also help us stay alert, control movement and regulate emotions. Dopamine especially is labelled the reward chemical; important to note given that a common element of the condition is a reduced ability to regulate mood. Those with ADHD often suffer from co-morbid conditions; predominantly depression, anxiety, racing thoughts and low self-worth.

Dopamine not only affects mood but plays a role in both physical and cognitive function. Low dopamine levels are linked to brain fog (cognitive impairment, including poor memory), clumsiness, lack of energy, fatigue and even restless legs.

Aerobic and non-aerobic exercise is known to increase dopamine levels, but recent studies have also begun looking at the impact of mind-body exercise, such as Hatha Yoga, on neurophysiological functions like inattention and hyperactivity.

Results of which suggest a reduction in impulsive behaviour and quicker reaction times after even just ten minutes of yoga. Yoga calms activity in the frontal lobe - the part of the brain responsible for memory, emotions, impulse control, thinking, planning and reasoning, allowing this part of the brain to take a well-earned rest.

But how to keep in the habit of regular workouts when your brain is the antithesis of routine?

Here are three top tips to keep it consistent:

1. Mornings work best.

One less task for the self-replenishing to-do list that is the ADHD brain. It starts your day with a sense of achievement to put you in a positive mind-set.

2. Reduce friction.

Have the mat set out on the floor, right next to the bed, if possible. If you can’t get up without stepping over it, you might as well step onto it.

3. Be flexible, be kind but keep it frequent.

If running late – as little as three sun breaths still counts.
If you can’t be bothered – sit up and do some breath-work.
If you’re too cosy – try horizontal stretches whilst still under the quilt.

Follow these and you can start the day with a calmer mind and the smug face of someone who wakes up and works out (even if it was only for 2 minutes).

Yoga leaves us more able to regulate emotions, soothes a busy mind, provides a sense of achievement and tops up the chemicals required for effective cognitive function.

So, yes. Yoga is good for my ADHD brain.

Ailsa Middlemas

Ailsa Middlemas is a nature therapist and meditation instructor based in Warwickshire, England.
A keen wild camper, year round open water swimmer, barefoot hiker and yoga enthusiast, she is the founder of The Rewilding Remedy.