Presenting Brain Science at the Pilates Research Forum at the PMA

I was part of the Pilates Research Forum at this year’s Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in mid October, presenting a report on “How Brain Science Can Improve Pilates Teaching and Learning.”

I discussed research conducted at my studio in March 2013 by Jeanne Masterson from Dominican University of California.  This research was also presented at The Society for the Neural Control of Movement Conference in Puerto Rico in April 2013


Masterson measured whether positive feedback and Visual Enhancement of Touch (VET) improved motor learning outcomes.   Positive feedback includes cues such as “Nice job, I can tell you are working hard to improve your form.”   VET includes looking at the place of touch where the student is touching herself or the teacher provides the touch. Below is an example of VET from the student’s perspective.

Using enhanced cue techniques to maintain neutral pelvis during unilateral movement

Using enhanced cue techniques to maintain neutral pelvis during unilateral movement

The groups were broken into a control, Pilates and Pilates with positive cues and VET.

The research suggests that positive feedback and VET improve motor learning. Specifically positive feedback and VET improved motor learning by more than twice just regular Pilates.

Positive Cues + VET improve motor skill learning by more than 2X regular Pilates teaching

Positive Cues + VET improve motor skill learning by more than 2X regular Pilates teaching

I enjoyed sharing the Body Brain Connect research with others, but what I most enjoyed was listening to other researchers.  Staples’ study demonstrated great ideas about how to work with a client after knee surgery.  I learned that Schrodeter wants to work with Gyrotonic, Pilates and Yoga instructors and professional dancers to see if these forms of mindful movement can help lower the risk of future injuries.  Cowen worked with firefighters in Arizona to compare whether Pilates, Yoga or Stretching was the most effective in reducing idiopathic back pain.  Callahan looked at the breathing inspiration (inhale) capacity of Pilates instructors. And guess what? It looks like we have less inhalation capacity than the average population.   We may have to rethink the way we breath.  Betz demonstrated an extensive and very practical Functional Analysis catalog showing how Pilates instructors can take better before and after Range Of Motion and functional movement assessments.   Anderson presented a case study which showed how a 70 year-old male was able to avoid surgery for lumbar stenosis by practicing Pilates; he focused on thoracic and hip extension while not perturbing (moving) the lumbar spine.  

Overall, I left feeling excited about the world of research in Pilates and look forward to its future growth. [See other Pilates researcher presenters below.]  However, I suggest that we work to get more people involved in research within our industry. As Pilates continues to expand it is important to study how Pilates and other forms of  mindful movement can improve the quality of life and also continue to research how to improve mindful movement teaching. 

Other mindful movement and Pilates research presenters included:

1.    Karyn Staples, PhD  ~Use of Pilates-based Rehabilitation as Early Intervention Following Total Knee Arthroplasty : Case Design
2.    Bob Shroedter, DPT  ~A Pilot Study to Apply the Functional Movement Screen to High Level Movement Specialists
3.    Virginia Cowen, PhD Rutgers University A Comparative Effectiveness Pilot Study of Pilates, Yoga and Stretching for Chronic Idiopathic Back Pain
4.    Lawrence Callahan PhD University of Miami ~Inspiratory Muscle Performance of Female Pilates Instructors
5.    Sherri Betz, PT ~Functional Movement Analysis Changes Following an 8-week Pilates Training Intervention: Case Reports
6.    Brent Anderson, PhD ~Avoiding Surgery for Lumbar Stenosis Through Postural and Movement Re-Education: Case Report