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Searching for a way to relax? Need a way to distress? Could you benefit from mindfulness? Do you have a child with ADD or ADHD that could use some help focusing? Have you ever considered yoga? Did you know that recent scientific research is focusing on how yoga could help kids in school. I look forward to the day that my children can practice yoga not only at home, but at school as well.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, where it originated in India. Many people all over the world practice yoga. The Indian definition of yoga is union. So if you are practicing yoga, you are uniting the mind and your physical body. When you are able to complete this union, you should feel an overall sense of well-being, or happiness.
According to PBS.org, “There are many aspects to yoga. In short, yoga is a system of physical exercises or postures (called asanas). These asanas build strength, flexibility and confidence. Yoga is also about breathing (called pranayama), which helps calm and refresh the body and mind. We are going to focus on these basic two aspects of yoga, but there are many other parts to practicing yoga. Yoga is about exploring and learning in a fun, safe and playful way. Yoga and kids are a perfect match. Here is what children (and adults!) can learn from yoga:
- Yoga teaches us about our bodies.
When we practice the physical postures or exercises (called asanas), we learn how to move more freely and with greater ease and awareness. These postures help our bodies become strong and flexible.
- Yoga teaches us how to breathe better.
When we breathe deeply and fully (called pranayama) and become more aware, we can bring peacefulness or energy to our bodies.
- Yoga teaches us how to use our energy more effectively.
When we practice yoga, we learn how to use the life force energy in our bodies (called prana) to feel more relaxed, focused, or motivated.
- Yoga teaches us how to quiet the mind.
When we practice yoga, we learn how to be still. This helps us to listen with attention and make good decisions.
- Yoga teaches us about balance.
When we practice yoga, we learn to be more aware about the need for balance in our lives. This could mean equal stretching on the left and right sides of our bodies or making sure we balance our very busy time with equal quiet time and relaxation.
- Yoga teaches us to be the “boss” of our bodies.
Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies by modifying or changing poses that are too hard or cause pain. (We will talk about how to modify poses in a later section.)
- Yoga teaches us about taking care of ourselves.
Yoga is a great way to move our bodies and feel healthy, and teaching children how to take care of themselves is one way to show love. As with all forms of exercise, a good yoga practice can mean a good night’s sleep!”
As I previously stated, I cannot wait for the day that a mindful course of yoga is taught at my children’s schools. The pleasure I see in their eyes and the calmness I see and feel in their bodies, when they practice yoga at home…is indescribable. To see that taught as a daily practice at school would open doors and minds to learning. Once that union between the mind and body is met, it will only make retaining the information being taught, that much easier. I honestly believe that if children can find that mindful connection, they will love to learn, and be truly happy doing it. Lets all encourage yoga in schools, and at the very least, practice it at home with your children! It’s an incredible connection.
Could diet and brain function go hand in hand? Have you ever considered that the food you eat is having debilitating effects on how well your brain could be functioning? What if there is an argument to explain why parents of children with autism, ADD, ADHD should consider looking at all options to help their children. Think outside the pharmaceutical box (or bottle), when you search for ways to improve brain function for your child.
Diet and nutrition are critical components of the overall treatment plan when you are searching for answers. However, there is no one cause for ADD, ADHD or autism. I am learning that there is a trilogy to consider when seeking treatment for these disorders. You have to look at therapy, medication and diet as options for treatment. Food can be medicine, but you have to consider that we are more than just what we eat. Our bodies are optimized through what we eat, digest, absorb and how the body utilizes said food, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The body can have a reaction to the foods we eat. The reactions can include allergies, sensitivities to food, and sometimes an intolerance to foods. A close look at digestive health is important. If the body has digestive problems, food is not utilized correctly, and that can lead to the brain not functioning correctly, thus contributing to symptoms of ADHD/ADD and autism.
A child needs an adequate diet in order to have healthy growth. To ensure that proper nutrition is being met, parents must include an array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. To support brain development and prevent certain neurologic disorders, this is particularly necessary in the first few years of life. When children are older, these important nutrition standards are still important. A lack of certain dietary components, such as protein, or an insufficient number of calories can negatively affect a child’s learning and behavioral abilities. As well, if your child has a vitamin or mineral deficiency, that too can certainly interfere with learning and behavior over the course of a school year.
Another idea regarding the causes of, and treatment for, ADHD/ADD and autism, have grown from the thought that certain substances that are present, rather than absent, in a child’s diet may lead to or worsen the condition or symptoms. The suspected harmful substances include artificial food additives, preservatives, sugar, or other elements that can cause allergic responses or yeast infections. According to these theories, eliminating such elements may eliminate or lessen the symptoms of ADHD. That can be a further topic of discussion later. For now lets focus broadly on what foods matter when searching for ways to diminish ADHD/ADD and autism symptoms.
When you look at what has been discussed so far, you see that dietary deficiencies can make the symptoms of ADHD/ADD and autism worse. So lets look at what those foods could be. First , an important contributor to optimal brain function is protein. Protein-rich foods help the body create neurotransmitters, which are chemicals the brain releases in order to communicate with brain cells. Foods that are high in protein can include lean beef, poultry, pork, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, dairy and soy. Starting your day with a high protein meal can get the brain functioning early, but you should still add more protein through out the day. Make sure that meals are balanced include vegetables. complex carbohydrates, fruits, and protein. Protein and fiber can help prevent a surge in blood sugars, which when elevated, can cause symptoms to be worse.
I have also learned that doctors recommend that children with ADHD/ADD may want to be tested for nutritional deficiencies. Knowing what needs to be focused on, will make treating much easier. Some common deficiencies can include zinc, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids. Zinc regulates dopamine in the brain, iron is important for making dopamine, and magnesium helps with attention and concentration and has a calming effect on the brain. You can find zinc, iron and magnesium in lean meat, nuts, poultry, and seafood. B Vitamins also work to increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. When dopamine levels are improved, there can be a reduction of aggression and anti-social behaviors. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper brain and nerve cell function. According to ADDitudemag.com, “A new study, conducted at Göteborg University, in Sweden, concluded that daily doses of omega-3s — found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon — reduced ADHD symptoms by 50 percent. Dr. Sven Ostlund followed a group of ADHD children aged 8-18 who took fish oil daily. Within six months, there was a noticeable decrease in ADHD symptoms in 25 percent of the children. Another study showed that omega-3s tend to break down more readily in the bodies of patients with ADHD than in those without the condition.”
Overall, the importance of diet in assessing and treating ADHD/ADD and autism is very important. Think about what is on the plate of those affected by ADHD, ADD or autism. Optimize the benefits of the foods, so that the body can utilize the foods and give the brain a boost. A healthy diet might reduce symptoms of ADHD by reducing exposure to artificial colors and additives and improving intake of omega-3 fats and other nutrients. However, no matter what motivates you to eat better, it will improve ones chances at a healthy and long life.