Alternative Medicine, Parenting

Yoga: A viable alternative to the over-medication of American youth?

English: A child not paying attention in class.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Do your kids need yoga?

In the United States5.2 million children 3-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD, and it appears to be that somewhere between about 1.5 percent and about 2.5 percent of school-age children that are taking medication right now for ADHD.  Methylphenidate drugs (Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta, Daytrana) are the most commonly used psychostimulants for treating ADHD in both children and adults.  These drugs increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter important for cognitive functions such as attention and focus. Side effects resulting from psychostimulant medications  taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are unfortunately quite common.  . All ADHD stimulant drugs carry warnings that they should not be used by patients with structural heart problems or pre-existing heart conditions (high blood pressure, heart failure, heart rhythm disturbances, or congenital heart disease). These drugs have been associated with sudden death in children with heart problems.

ADHD drugs may also:

Ritalin

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Worsen behavior and thought disturbance in patients with a pre-existing psychotic disorder. These drugs may also slightly increase the risk for auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic and manic behavior even in patients who do not have a history of psychiatric problems.
  • Cause a mixed or manic episode in patients who have both ADHD and bipolar disorder.
  • Increase aggressive behavior or hostility. Patients beginning stimulant drug treatment should be monitored for worsening of these behaviors.
  • Slow growth and weight gain in children. Children who take stimulant drugs should have their growth monitored. If they do not gain height or weight at a normal rate, they may need to stop taking the drug.
  • They have also been associated with sudden death, stroke, and heart attack in adults with a history of heart disease.

According to the University of Indiana’s Sound Medicine, children who practice yoga, often experience healthier sleep patterns which allows them to relax more than children who don’t practice yoga. Another study conducted by the Journal of Attention Disorders found that ADHD children who practice yoga are much more likely to remain focused and are less hyperactive, which in turned reduced the amount of emotional outbursts and oppositional behavior.  Millions of America’s youth are on psychotropic drugs to treat ADD and ADHD, but for parents that would rather keep their kids off drugs, even if they are legal, yoga may offer an  effective alternative.

Yoga is generally low-impact and safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor. Overall, those who practice yoga have a low rate of side effects, and the risk of serious injury from yoga is quite low. However, certain types of stroke as well as pain from nerve damage are among the rare possible side effects of practicing yoga. Women who are pregnant and people with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, glaucoma (a condition in which fluid pressure within the eye slowly increases and can damage the eye’s optic nerve), and sciatica (pain, weakness, numbing, or tingling that can extend from the lower back to the calf, foot, or even the toes), should modify or avoid some yoga poses. If accessibility or finances are an issue, there are many free resources online. To learn more about yoga for kids and to get your FREE Kids Yoga class online, please visit, Kids yoga guide. Additional resources can be found through Yome yoga, which offers free full length online yoga classes tailored to specific age groups or medical conditions. Practicing yoga does not require any special equipment or a large initial investment and can be practiced virtually anywhere.

If you are considering trying yoga, do not use yoga or any other complementary health practice to replace conventional medical care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about pain or any other medical condition. If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care provider before starting yoga. Ask a trusted source (such as your health care provider or a nearby hospital) to recommend a yoga practitioner. Find out about the training and experience of any practitioner you are considering. Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Carefully selecting an instructor who is experienced with and attentive to your needs is an important step toward helping you practice yoga safely. Ask about the physical demands of the type of yoga in which you are interested and inform your yoga instructor about any medical issues you have.

©Ellice Campbell 2013

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6 thoughts on “Yoga: A viable alternative to the over-medication of American youth?

  1. I so worry about all the pharmaceuticals that we use, particularly when it comes to children because of the lack of good data we have for those little vulnerable bodies. Thanks for sharing this.

    • It is really scary the things that we are willing to put into our bodies as long as it comes in pill form! Personally, I have a allergic reaction to almost any medication I have ever been on, so I try to steer clear of anything synthetic and I try to do the same for my kids. I realized how powerful a healthy diet + a healthy lifestyle could be in avoiding conventional medicine 🙂

  2. All kids can benefit from yoga, imo! It’s physically, mentally and emotionally healthy and long term practice creates more peaceful minds and habits as we seek answers from within instead of from without. Thanks for this post!

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