Every other person these days is diagnosed with ADD, especially children. I clearly remember in the 90’s, it was maybe 1 our of 50 students with ADD. How is it that now in some classes, almost half of it is diagnosed with ADD and on medication! A lot of parents helplessly give their children medication. They feel it is the best for them, but also nervously agree to their dosage increases as they get older. It is tough when both parents have busy professional lives. The last thing they want to deal with is their child’s school calling them because he or she has decided to “act out”. Of course, much easier to increase their dosage and happily send them off to school.
As young children, they might not be able to follow directions, focus, behave hyperactively, or finish a task. As they get older, it might unfold into other issues of self-esteem and depression. Western medicine identifies ADD as a lifelong disease that can only be managed with medicine. It is believed to be a genetic condition. Some believe the culprit is food coloring, additives and preservatives commonly found in our food these days.
The root of ADD in Ayurveda is Vata Dosha.
It is curable, or rather manageable. Definitely not a lifelong disease if appropriate diet and lifestyle measures are taken. Prana is the mental essence of Vata dosha, it is our life-force energy, breath. Pranayama is breath work, practiced to help regulate prana in the body. It penetrates into our cells and give us life, enthusiasm, energy and interlaces our body, mind and soul. When prana is erratic and out of control, these ups and downs will cause conditions such as ADD, spaciness, ungrounded, motor and sensory problems. When there is low prana, there will be dullness, lethargy, heaviness and lack of enthusiasm for life. Yoga helps balance prana by practicing pranayama and asanas.
Another way to look at it is understanding that ADD is an imbalance of vata dosha, the air and ether elements. Too much of air will cause excess mental stimulation. Also, too much of ether will cause spaciness. ADD is essentially both, though some may have more of one than the other.
Those with ADD need to be grounded to calm their mind and body down. Sometimes they are in another world when they space out. Not a surprise if they feel “different”. ADD is a vata imbalance, but it will affect those who have vata as their prakruti (innate nature) even more. When vata dosha is balanced, it is incredible. These individuals are gifted to be creative and out-of-the-box thinkers. However, channeling this creativity effectively if key. Otherwise they can become destructive and frustrated with theirselves. They may feel confused and unable to understand what is going on in internally or why others are not like them.
One of the best ways to start is with the diet. Food colors and preservative foods need to be eliminated. Along with frozen and packaged foods. Avoid leftovers, however eating one day old leftover food should be the maximum. A vata balancing diet with a focus on grounding root vegetables. Add healthy fats such as ghee, avocados, and nuts. As with any vata balancing diet, avoid all cold foods and drinks, meaning anything with ice, cold, and straight out from the fridge.
Diet alone can do A LOT.
Depending on how old your child is, ojas milk is a great to give them before bedtime. Recently there is a lot debate on high fluoride levels in water. On a side note, please check your levels or use a good filter. Fluoride calcifies the pineal gland, this can create a lot of problems, but especially in children as their bodies are not able to filter these chemicals out of their body as easily.
Children need a daily regimen to some degree. In Ayurveda we call this dinacarya, daily regimen. Even if it is just meal times and bedtime, children with ADD especially need this to be more grounded. This predictability helps them be less anxious when it is time to eat or sleep. It might seem a little mundane as parents, but vata imbalanced children and those with ADD really need this. It is creating a sense of security for them. Weekends can throw schedules off, but that is okay and in fact necessary. Raising rigid children is not what we want either, right? I am referring to a Sunday evening to Friday evening on school nights when there needs to be a regimen in place.
NO electronics an hour before bedtime! The mind is stimulated when looking at screens. If kids are watching tv before bed or using their iPad, chances are high their minds will not shut off. This will not allow to reach the REM phase of sleep and get the deep rest they need. Some ideas of things to do before bed are journalling, coloring, drawing, card games, reading a book or taking a bath. One of my favorite things to do with my toddler son an hour or so before bed is spend a little bit of time playing, cuddling and then massaging him with sesame oil followed by a bath. This way, he feels secure and happy with the quality time but also the massage, known as abhyanga, is soothing to simmer him down before bed.
A weekly detox day is a great way to spend quality time together as a family. It will allow children to be more aware of the many ways to have fun off screen. Even for us adults, it is hard to put our phones and laptops away for an entire day. I assure you this is very healing. Instead of pulling this off last minute, schedule a day for this and inform close family and friends so they do not worry about you when their calls are not returned. Personally, I love doing a family detox day on Sundays because Friday nights and Saturdays are usually packed and Sundays are more laid back.
In Ayurveda, we believe that first diet and lifestyle should be given emphasis. A majority of the time, these two in itself can do the necessary. However, sometimes it is not enough, that is when we should consider taking herbs. Brahmi is an herb that helps balance the mind, cool it down, calm the nervous system down, allowing the mind to focus when necessary.
As mentioned earlier, pranayama- breath work can do wonders at balancing prana. If you have a young child, they may not sit down and do breakthwork. I have a toddler and know firsthand. Then again it is never too early to start demonstrating how it is done. Hopefully, monkey see monkey do.
There are lots of different types of pranayama, but starting with a simple 6 seconds deep breathing in and 6 seconds out can be a good start. Nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing balances channels on the right and left sides of the body. If they are able to sit down, have them close their eyes and take them on a guided visualization of something that is very calming and peaceful.
Let it be their sacred sanctuary and remind that they can come visit it at any time they feel unsettled.
Nasya oil is a medicated herbal oil used in Ayurvedic self care practices. You apply with a q-tip a drop or two of nasya oil in their nose, or certain nasya oil brands include droppers or sprays. I would not use this on my toddler, as it can be a bit strong. If you have an older child, this may be helpful. Most, nasya oils contain brahmi or other herbs that will help balance prana but also enable a better sense of smell.
I really hope this was helpful! I dislike how the western culture portrays ADD as a sort of hopeless disease. ADD is manageable, if not totally curable with Ayurveda.