Developing Self-Regulation

by | Mar 20, 2009 | Class Stories, Tips

In our work with children, we are often reminded of just how important it is to learn the skill of self-regulation – especially for children with impulse control weaknesses. As Peter Levine powerfully illustrated at a recent workshop we attended, impulse control is a key child development stage, and impulse disorders go hand-in-hand with ADHD, PTSD, substance use, bipolar spectrum disorders and other issues. Most importantly, he showed how development of the ability to self-regulate requires us to work through the body.

Of course, learning through our bodies is how children initially learn and is a powerful tool for all of us.

At its heart, yoga is about self-regulation. In fact, some of the oldest writings on yoga state that it “is the cessation of the vibrations of the mind.” One way that the yogis did this was through calming the nervous system through breath awareness and breathing techniques. Just taking slow deep breaths has a profound affect on the nervous system, can give us a sense of control and can help with focusing – something we describe in detail in Chapter 4 of Yoga Calm for Children .

In over 35 years of yoga practice, we have found that the Hoberman Sphere is one of the most effective tools for teaching relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing. Watching the sphere’s three-dimensional action combined with “belly breathing” calms, centers and relaxes children and adults alike.


Here is a story from Cameron Denney, a school counselor who used this technique the day after attending an introductory Yoga Calm workshop:

“I used the Hoberman sphere with a third grade class this week. One boy – who has a really tough time with impulsivity/talking out and being quite oppositional – came into class in a bad frame of mind, angry at the boys who chose to sit next to him in the classroom. They were exchanging irritated remarks, and the boy kept saying to me, “Make them move!” I told them all to wait and then started the class by introducing breathing with the sphere. This particular boy was fascinated with the ball (well, truth be told, they all were) and asked if he had a good day, could he play with it?….After the breathing, none of the boys had any problems at all with each other for the whole period. I asked the boy to lead an activity, and he did a great job and looked happier than I’d ever seen him. At the end of the class, he came up to take a turn handling the sphere, and, of course, everyone else did, too, but we had extra time that day, so all was well.”

Another story from Andrea Burke, a school librarian:

“The week after I taught calming breathing in third grade (one lesson), a girl came back to share she had used the calming breathing before her piano recital and it had really helped her. I also keep a Hoberman sphere available to kids in the library. Every class has been taught how it is an aid in regulating breathing and calming oneself. It is used spontaneously everyday by someone.
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Have you used the Hoberman sphere in teaching self-regulation? Use the Comments section to let us know how it worked for you and your students.
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Stories used by permission

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