Co-Regulating Breath with the Hoberman Sphere

What should you do when an agitated child refuses to do any breathwork or movement?

We often say, “you are the intervention”. In fact, we dedicated an entire blog post to the idea of practicing these techniques for our own self-regulation before even beginning to teach youth. But, what does that really look like in practice?

In co-regulation, the grounded adult provides the frequency to which the dysregulated youth can atune. This sounds simple, but in practice, can be quite challenging. Extreme behaviors in youth often trigger our own stress responses. This is expected and normal. However, it is at this point where we encourage the mindfulness practice to take over. Notice the child’s reaction with a non-judgemental lens, and choose another response from your toolkit.

mom and son back breathing

The Hoberman Sphere is the way we begin to teach Belly Breathing, our introductory breath. This tool and breathing strategy is a great resource for self-regulation. The idea is that this practice becomes so engrained that its response becomes second nature. It is important to note, that these strategies should first be introduced when the child is not agitated. Find the lesson plan in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

young child with Hoberman Sphere

Licensed with Yoga Calm®

Let’s paint a scenario. A student enters the office in an extremely agitated state. He has “flipped his lid” and is not accessing his “thinking brain”. You offer releasing breaths or other strategies that you have practiced before, but nothing seems to be resonating. Instead, he is only becoming more agitated. At this point, you pick up the Hoberman Sphere off of your desk. You begin to do deep belly breathing, even counting the breaths along the way. By the time you get to ten breaths, you notice that the volume in the student’s voice has dropped and his body is starting to still. A this point, you could invite him to practicipate in the strategies again as you continue your deep breathing.

High school student with Hoberman Sphere at desk

In this scenario, not only does Belly Breathing keep you in a calm, relaxed, alert state, but it serves as a model for desired behavior. You, as the regulated adult, are simply holding space for however the youth is showing up. While creating mindful spaces through color and decor are important, the real work begins by creating the mindful space within yourself. It is this space that will set the tone and energy for the youth you serve.

On a personal note, I’d also like to share how this strategy plays out at home with my own children.

My three year old was just finishing his first week of preschool. Emotional and physical exhaustion were at a maximum. Right before bed, an epic tantrum erupted. I recognized that he had “flipped his lid” and was operating in his lower brain. No amount of talking was going to turn the ship around. I brought out the breathing ball and asked, “Should we do some breathing?” The response was a resounding “NO” as he pushed the ball away.

Mother co-regulating with three year old

At this point, I could have walked away, tried to persuade him into getting into bed or worse, forcefully put him into bed. However, I know the power of co-regulation. I brought out tools readily accessible in his bedroom, with which he was already familiar, the Hoberman Sphere and Essential Oils. Within three and half minutes I had completely redirected his behavior. To see the full video, visit our YouTube.

We’re not expected to be perfect. These strategies can be difficult to remember in times of turmoil and don’t always turn around each situation. However, knowing that these tools and strategies are available can make difficult situations seem much more manageable. The most powerful part of this work is sharing with youth, that our brains and bodies always have another chance to try again with a different response.

Have you ever had a successful co-regulation experience? What has worked well for you? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

3 replies
  1. Liz Frink
    Liz Frink says:

    Similar to what was demonstrated in this video, I have found that with my own son’s tantrums I get really stressed quickly. So to take care of myself, I will usually go right into a downward dog, or a plank or a child’s pose and practice my own breathing, which is also demonstrating these tools to my son. It usually doesn’t take long for him to join me when he sees me taking care of myself! The times that I am too distracted to stop and perform these tools (like watching a pot boil over on the stove with supper almost ready) are the times it gets out of control. While part of it is my work deciding what I can stop doing and put down (which has increased with this training; I never used to be able to stop mid-task!) to help demonstrate these tools in a crisis situation, I definitely know that if I am able to I can help this child 100% of the time! That IS Co-Regulating! Thanks for the vocabulary to help me understand this better!

  2. Robin Gray King
    Robin Gray King says:

    As a Special Educator and restorative Practitioner, there are many times during the school week in which I have the opportunity for co-regulation with students. Just recently we had a couple of kiddos make the great elope into the frozen neighborhood, in the lengthy process of retrieval I managed to hold hands with one of them on the walk backto school. He was manic from the excitement ( and a bit scared as well) and was taking faster than I could listen. His hands were icy and even though we were both chilled, I stopped, knelt down, took both of his hands in mine (which surprised the living heck out of him) and showed him how to rub them together to warm them and then helped him to cup his eys and forhead in the warmth. We did this twice, then…he asked if he could do it for me…I said yes and…then he asked if I was ready to keep walking!


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