This study evaluated the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based yoga intervention in promoting self-regulation among preschool children (3–5 years old). Twenty-nine children (16 intervention and 13 control) participated in the yearlong study that used a quasi experimental pretest/posttest treatment and control design. The mindful yoga intervention was implemented regularly by the classroom teacher for the treatment group. Treatment and control participants completed evaluations that assessed multiple indices of children’s self-regulation (i.e., attention, delay of gratification and inhibitory control) using a combination of parent report and direct assessments. Results from the direct assessments indicated significant effects of the intervention across all three indices of self-regulation. There was also some evidence that the children who were most at risk of self-regulation dysfunction benefited the most from the intervention. Implications of this study for current practice in early childhood education are discussed along with possibilities for future research in this area.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Achenbach, T. M., McConnaughy, S. H., & Howell, C. T. (1987). Child/adolescent behavioral and emotional problems: Implications of cross-informant correlations for situational specificity. Psychological Bulletin, 102, 213–232.
Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143.
Bergman Nutley, S., Söderqvist, S., Bryde, S., Thorell, L. B., Humphreys, K., & Klingberg, T. (2011). Gains in fluid intelligence after training non-verbal reasoning in 4-year-old children: A controlled, randomized study. Developmental Science, 14(3), 591–601. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01022.x.
Best, J. R., Miller, P. H., & Jones, L. L. (2009). Executive functions after age 5: Changes and correlates. Developmental Review, 29, 180–200.
Best, J. R., Miller, P. H., & Naglieri, J. A. (2011). Relations between executive function and academic achievement from ages 5 to 17 in a large, representative national sample. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 327–336.
Biegel, G. M., & Brown, K. W. (2012). Assessing the efficacy of an adapted in-class mindfulness-based training program for school-age children: A pilot study [White paper]. Retrieved from http://www.mindfulschools.org/pdf/MindfulSchoolsPilotStudyWhitepaper.pdf.
Biegel, G. M., Brown, K. W., Shapiro, S. L., & Schubert, C. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 77, 855–866.
Bierman, K. L., Nix, R. L., Greenberg, M. T., Blair, C., & Domitrovich, C. E. (2008). Executive functions and school readiness intervention: Impact, moderation, and mediation in the Head Start REDI program. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 821–843.
Bierman, K. L., & Smoot, D. L. (1991). Linking family characteristics with poor peer relations: The mediating role of conduct problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 19, 341–356.
Birdee, G. S., Yeh, G. Y., Wayne, P. M., Phillips, R. S., Davis, R. B., & Gardiner, P. (2009). Clinical applications of yoga for the pediatric population: A systematic review. Academic Pediatrics, 9, 212–220.
Black, D. S., Milam, J., & Sussman, S. (2008). Sitting-meditation interventions among youth: A review of treatment efficacy. Pediatrics, 124, 532–541.
Blair, C. (2002). School readiness as propensity for engagement: Integrating cognition and emotion in a neurobiological conceptualization of child functioning at school entry. American Psychologist, 57(2), 111–127. doi:10.1037//0003-066X.57.2.111.
Blair, C. (2010). Stress and the development of self-regulation in context. Child Development Perspectives, 4, 181–188.
Blair, C., & Dennis, T. (2010). An optimal balance: Emotion-cognition integration in context. In S. Calkins & M. Bell (Eds.), Child development at the intersection of cognition and emotion (pp. 17–36). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Blair, C., & Razza, R. P. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function, and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy ability in kindergarten. Child Development, 78(2), 647–663. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01019.x.
Blair, C., & Ursache, A. (2011). A bidirectional theory of executive functions and self-regulation. In R. Baumeister & K. Vohs (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (2nd ed., pp. 300–320). New York: Guilford.
Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2007). Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian approach to early childhood education (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education/Merrill.
Brock, L. L., Rimm-Kaufman, S., Nathanson, L., & Grimm, K. J. (2009). The contributions of ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ executive function to children’s academic achievement, learning-related behaviors, and engagement in kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 337–349.
Burke, C. A. (2009). Mindfulness-based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 133–144. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9282-x.
Bush, G., Luu, P., & Posner, M. I. (2000). Cognitive and emotional influences in anterior cingulated cortex. Trends in Cognitive Science, 4(6), 215–222.
Calkins, S. D., & Fox, N. A. (2002). Self-regulatory processes in early personality development: A multi-level approach to the study of childhood social withdrawal and aggression. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 477–498.
Calkins, S. D., & Marcovitch, S. (2010). Emotion regulation and executive functioning in early development: Integrated mechanisms of control supporting adaptive functioning. In S. D. Calkins & M. A. Bell (Eds.), Child development at the intersection of emotion and cognition (pp. 37–58). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Carlson, S. M., Moses, L. J., & Claxton, L. J. (2004). Individual differences in executive functioning and theory of mind: An investigation of inhibitory control and planning ability. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 87, 299–319.
Clark, C. A. C., Sheffield, T. D., Wiebe, S. A., & Espy, K. A. (2013). Longitudinal associations between executive control and developing mathematical competence in preschool boys and girls. Child Development, 84(2), 662–677. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01854.x.
Coatsworth, J. D., Duncan, L. G., Greenberg, M. T., & Nix, R. L. (2010). Changing parents’ mindfulness, child management skills, and relationship quality with their youth: Results from a randomized pilot intervention trial. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 203–217. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9304-8.
Committee for Children. (2002). Second step: A violence prevention curriculum. Preschool/kindergarten-grade 9 trainer’s manual (3rd ed.). Seattle, WA: Committee for Children.
Diamond, A. (2005). ADD (ADHD without hyperactivity), a neurobiologically and behaviorally distinct disorder from ADHD (with hyperactivity). Development and Psychopathology, 17, 807–825.
Diamond, A. (2012). Activities and programs that improve children’s executive functions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 335–341. doi:10.1177/0963721412453722.
Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168.
Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control. Science, 318(5855), 1387–1388. doi:10.1126/science.1151148.
Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333, 959–964. doi:10.1126/science.1204529.
Diamond, A., & Taylor, C. (1996). Development of an aspect of executive control: Development of the abilities to remember what I said and to “Do as I say, not as I do”. Developmental Psychology, 29, 315–334.
Eisenberg, N., Smith, C. L., Sadovsky, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (2004). Effortful control: Relations with emotion regulation, adjustment, and socialization in childhood. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (pp. 259–282). New York: Guilford.
Evans, G. W., & English, K. (2002). The environment of poverty: Multiple stressor exposure, psychophysiological stress, and socioemotional adjustment. Child Development, 73, 1238–1248.
Fabes, R., Martin, C. L., Hanish, L. D., Anders, M. C., & Madden-Derdich, D. A. (2003). Early school competence: The roles of sex-segregated play and effortful control. Developmental Psychology, 39(5), 848–858. doi:10.1037/0012-16220.127.116.118.
Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Dang, J., Cho, J., Kaiser-Greenland, S., et al. (2008). Mindful awareness practices improve executive function in preschool children. Poster session presented at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society 6th Annual Conference, Worcester, MA.
Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., et al. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26, 70–95.
Galantino, M. L., Galbavy, R., & Quinn, L. (2008). Therapeutic effects of yoga for children: A systematic review of the literature. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 20, 66–80.
Garabedian, H. (2008). Itsy bitsy yoga for toddlers and prescshoolers: 8 minute routines to help your child grow smarter, be happier and behave better. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Garon, N., Bryson, S. E., & Smith, I. M. (2008). Executive function in preschoolers: A review using an integrative framework. Psychological Bulletin, 134(1), 31–60. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.1.31.
Greenberg, M. T., & Harris, A. R. (2012). Nurturing mindfulness in children and youth: Current state of research. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 161–166. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x.
Greenland, S. K. (2010). The mindful child: How to help your kid manage stress and become happier, kinder, and more compassionate. New York, NY: Free Press.
Greeson, J. M. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complementary Health Practices Review, 14, 10–18.
Hanh, T. N. (2011). Planting seeds: Practicing mindfulness with children. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
Harnett, P. H., & Dawe, S. (2012). The contribution of mindfulness-based therapies for children and families and a proposed conceptual integration. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 17(4), 195–208. doi:10.1111/j.1475-3588.2011.00643.x.
Hester, R., & Garavan, H. (2004). Executive dysfunction in cocaine addiction: Evidence for discordant frontal, cingulated, and cerebellar activity. Journal of Neuroscience, 24, 11017–11022.
Higgins, E. T., & Spiegel, S. (2004). Promotion and prevention strategies for self-regulation: A motivated cognition perspective. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (pp. 171–187). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
Hongwanishkul, D., Happaney, K. R., Lee, W. S., & Zelazo, P. D. (2005). Assessment of hot and cool executive function in young children: Age-related changes and individual differences. Developmental Neuropsychology, 28, 617–644.
Hooker, K. E., & Fodor, I. E. (2008). Teaching mindfulness to children. Gestalt Review, 12(1), 75–91.
Ivanov, I., Schulz, K. P., London, E. D., & Newcorn, J. H. (2008). Inhibitory control deficits in childhood and risk for substance use disorders: A review. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 34(3), 239–258. doi:10.1080/00952990802013334.
Ladd, G. W., Birch, S. H., & Buhs, E. S. (1999). Children’s social and scholastic lives in kindergarten: Related spheres of influence? Child Development, 70(6), 1373–1400.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144–156.
Kochanska, G., Coy, K. C., & Murray, K. T. (2001). The development of self-regulation in the first four years of life. Child Development, 72(4), 1091–1111.
Kochanska, G., Murray, K., Jacques, T. Y., Koenig, A. L., & Vandegeest, K. A. (1996). Inhibitory control in young children and its role in emerging internalization. Child Development, 67, 490–507.
Kochanska, G., Murray, K., & Coy, K. (1997). Inhibitory control as a contributor to conscience in childhood: From toddler to early school age. Child Development, 68, 263–277.
Kyte, Z. A., Goodyer, I. M., & Sahakian, B. J. (2005). Selected executive skills in adolescents with recent first episode major depression. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 995–1005.
Li-Grining, C. P. (2007). Effortful control among low-income preschoolers in three cities: Stability, change, and individual differences. Developmental Psychology, 43(1), 208–221. doi:10.1037/0012-1618.104.22.168.
McClelland, M. M., Cameron, C. E., Connor, C. M., Farris, C. L., Jewkes, A. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2007). Links between behavioral regulation and preschoolers’ literacy, vocabulary, and math skills. Developmental Psychology, 43, 947–959.
McClelland, M., Morrison, F. J., & Holmes, D. L. (2000). Children at risk for early academic problems: The role of learning-related social skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(3), 307–329. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2006.09.003.
Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B. L., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 985–994.
Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsiky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., et al. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. PNAS, 108, 2693–2698. doi:10.1073/pnas.1010076108.
Murray, K. T., & Kochanska, G. (2002). Effortful control: Factor structure and relation to externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 503–514.
Napoli, M., Krech, P. K., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The Attention Academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21, 99–125.
Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K., Lawlor, M. S., & Thompson, K. C. (2012). Mindfulness and inhibitory control in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 32(4), 565–588. doi:10.1177/0272431611403741.
Ponitz, C. C., McClelland, M. M., Matthews, J. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2009). A structured observation of behavioral self-regulation and its contribution to kindergarten outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 45, 605–619.
Posner, M. I., & Rothbart, M. K. (2000). Developing mechanisms of self-regulation. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 427–441.
Putnam, S. P., & Rothbart, M. K. (2006). Development of short and very short forms of the children’s behavior Questionnaire. Journal of Personality Assessment, 87(1), 103–113.
Raver, C. C. (2004). Placing emotional self-regulation in sociocultural and socioeconomic contexts. Child Development, 75, 346–353.
Raver, C. C. (2012). Low-income children’s self-regulation in the classroom: Scientific inquiry for social change. American Psychologist, 67(8), 681–689. doi:10.1037/a0030085.
Raver, C. C., Jones, S. M., Li-Grining, C. P., Zhai, F., Bub, K., & Pressler, E. (2011). CSRP’s impact on low-income preschoolers’ pre-academic skills: Self-regulation and teacher-student relationships as two mediating mechanisms. Child Development, 82(1), 362–378.
Richardson, J. T. E. (2011). Eta squared and partial eta squared as measures of effect size in educational research. Educational Research Review, 6(2), 135–147.
Riggs, N. R., Greenberg, M. T., Kusche, C. A., & Pentz, M. A. (2006a). The mediational role of neurocognition in the behavioral outcomes of a social-emotional prevention program in elementary school students: Effects of the PATHS curriculum. Prevention Science, 7, 91–102.
Riggs, N. R., Jahromi, L. B., Razza, R. P., Dillworth-Bart, J. E., & Mueller, U. (2006b). Executive function and the promotion of social-emotional competence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 300-309.
Roid, G. H., & Miller, L. J. (1997). Leiter International Performance Scale—revised. Wood Dale, IL: Stoelting.
Rothbart, M. K., & Ahadi, S. A. (1994). Temperament and the development of personality. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 55–66.
Rothbart, M. K., & Bates, J. E. (2006). Temperament. In N. Eisenberg, W. Damon, R. M. Lerner, N. E. Eisenberg, W. E. Damon, & R. M. E. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3, social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 99–166). Hoboken, NJ, US: Wiley.
Rueda, M. R., Rothbart, M. K., McCandliss, B. D., & Posner, P. (2005). Training, maturation, and genetic influences on the development of executive attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102, 14931–14936.
Rueda, M. R., Fan, J., McCandliss, B. D., Halparin, J. D., Gruber, D. B., Lercari, L. P., et al. (2004). Development of attentional networks in childhood. Neuropsychologia, 42, 1029–1040.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Hyme, S. (2007). Educating the heart as well as the mind: Why social and emotional learning is critical for students’ school and life success. Education Canada, 47, 20–25.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Stewart Lawlor, M. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1, 137–151. doi:10.1007/s12671-101-0011-8.
Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2009). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 218–229. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9301-y.
Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26(6), 978–986.
Tang, Y. Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 17152–17156. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707678104.
Tang, Y., Yang, L., Leve, L. D., & Harold, G. T. (2012). Improving executive function and its neurobiological mechanisms through a mindfulness-based intervention: Advances within the field of developmental neuroscience. Child Development Perspectives, 6(4), 361–366. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00250.x.
Thorell, L. B., Lindqvist, S., Nutley, S. B., Bohlin, G., & Klingberg, T. (2009). Training and transfer effects of executive functions in preschool children. Developmental Science, 12(1), 106–113. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00745.x.
Tominey, S. L., & McClelland, M. M. (2011). Red light, purple light: Findings from a randomized trial using circle time games to improve behavioral self-regulation in preschool. Early Education and Development, 22(3), 489–519. doi:10.1080/10409289.2011.574258.
Toplak, M. E., West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Practitioner review: Do performance-based measures and ratings of executive function assess the same construct? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(2), 131–143.
van der Oord, S., Bögels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(1), 139–147. doi:10.1007/s10826-011-9457-0.
Welsh, M. C., Pennington, B. F., & Groisser, D. B. (1991). A normative-developmental study of executive function: A window of prefrontal function in children. Developmental Neuropsychology, 7, 131–149.
Wenig, M. (2003). YogaKids: Educating the whole child through yoga. New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori and Chang.
Zelazo, P. D., & Lyons, K. E. (2012). The potential benefits of mindfulness training in early childhood: A developmental social cognitive neuroscience perspective. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 154–160. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00241.x.
Zhou, Q., Chen, S. H., & Main, A. (2012). Commonalities and differences in the research on children’s effortful control and executive function: A call for an integrated model of self-regulation. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 112–121. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00176.x.
About this article
Cite this article
Razza, R.A., Bergen-Cico, D. & Raymond, K. Enhancing Preschoolers’ Self-Regulation Via Mindful Yoga. J Child Fam Stud 24, 372–385 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9847-6
- Executive function
- Effortful control