Unlocking Neuroplasticity Through Pilates

By: Kate Strozak

Pilates instructors hold a unique position to positively impact clients not just through their bones, muscles, and fascia but also neurologically. This blog post dives into neuroplasticity, the brain’s remarkable ability to adapt and form new neural connections. Understanding neuroplasticity and how Pilates fosters it can elevate your practice, helping clients achieve holistic well-being.

What is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, signifies the brain’s capacity to adapt and change throughout life. This adaptability is crucial for learning new skills, recovering from injuries, and improving cognitive function. If you’re looking to create long lasting or permanent impact for a client’s movement patterns, neuroplasticity is what you’re looking to promote. This involves two key processes:

  • Structural Plasticity: Refers to physical changes in the brain, such as the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and strengthening or awakening of synapses.
  • Functional Plasticity: Refers to the brain’s ability to shift functions from damaged areas to healthy ones, facilitating adaptability and recovery after injuries or strokes.

Many factors can influence neuroplasticity and when you understand these, you can optimize your Pilates sessions. Learning, physical exercise, mental challenges, and recovery are some factors influencing neuroplasticity. This is where Pilates shines.

How Pilates Could Enhance Neuroplasticity

Pilates, emphasizing quality movement and mindfulness, offers numerous benefits that directly contribute to neuroplasticity:

  • Improved Movement Efficiency: Pilates exercises require precise movements, engaging the brain in motor control. This focus could strengthen or refine neural connections, leading to better overall improved movement efficiency and control (Consider keyword phrases like “Pilates exercises for coordination” or “Pilates for balance”).
  • Enhanced Mind-Body Connection: One of Pilates’ core principles is mindful movement, requiring focus on breath and awareness. Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which helps people access the parasympathetic state, the state of rest and digest. Chronic stress can prevent neuroplasticity. By decreasing stress levels through accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, you could support neuroplasticity. Awareness or alertness is also a key component of supporting neuroplasticity.
  • Motor Learning: Learning new things, such as learning new exercises in Pilates, helps support neuroplasticity. When people learn something new, it sparks alertness and motivation. In this process, people will make mistakes, and the process queues the brain to be attentive to learn. This whole process is key in driving neuroplasticity. Repetition then solidifies new neural connections which could enhance both physical and cognitive abilities.

Physical Exercise Benefits of the Brain

As a form of physical exercise, Pilates:

  • Increases blood flow to the brain.
  • Reduces inflamation.
  • Releases neurotrophic factors (supporting neuron growth and survival).
  • Cognitive Challenges: The variety and progression of Pilates exercises require continuous mental engagement and problem-solving, further stimulating neuroplasticity and keeping the brain sharp and adaptable.

Practical Applications for Pilates Instructors

Understanding this connection can transform your approach:

  • Rehabilitation: Pilates can be an effective tool for stroke or brain injury rehabilitation. Learning new movements, being challenged and frustrated in that process, aids in retraining the brain and body for functional recovery. Pilates can be wonderfully tailored to an individual’s needs, can provide qualitative movement assessment and training, and support daily function.
  • Aging Populations: Pilates can help maintain and enhance cognitive and physical function in older adults, counteracting age-related declines in balance, coordination, conditioning and cognitive function.
  • Mental Health: Pilates has the potential to promote gratitude, mindfulness, and body appreciation. Research suggests that gratitude and mindfulness can decrease amygdala activity, a region of the brain that corresponds to aggression, anger, and stress.

Implement Neuroplasticity-Enhancing Techniques

  1. Vary Exercises Regularly: Introduce new movements and sequences to keep the brain engaged and challenged.
  2. Focus on Mindfulness: Encourage clients to concentrate on their breathing and sense of presence during exercises.
  3. Promote Coordination and Balance: Include exercises that require balance and precise movements to stimulate neural connections.
  4. Customize Programs: Tailor routines to the specific needs of clients, maximizing neuroplasticity benefits.
  5. Integrate… challenge, play, mindfulness, and sensation into sessions. I like integrating these four specific factor into every session to help foster neuroplasticity.


By understanding and leveraging neuroplasticity, Pilates instructors can create a transformative experience for their clients along with positive, permanent impact. Pilates is more than just physical exercise; it’s a powerful tool for enhancing neuroplasticity and promoting holistic well-being. Embrace the mind-body connection and unlock the full potential of your practice!

If you are interested in learning more, you can join me on my ‘Neuroanatomy in Motion’ course starting this October 5th! Use code ‘polestar’ to get $25 off and sign up to my mailing list to hear of future courses.

About the Author

Kate Strozak is a movement professional specialized in neuroscience as it relates to human movement. She has a Master’s in Applied Neuroscience from King’s College London and has dedicated her career to studying and applying neuroscience to movement training. Her movement education background includes Pilates, Oov, athletics, dance, yoga, Gyrotonic®, and functional strength training.

Kate has a deep passion and curiosity for her work which drives her to continue learning. Kate strives to find a balance between evidence and science supported along with real life application in her work.

She is committed to supporting students and other movement professionals in their educational endeavors through her work as a faculty member of Polestar Pilates, Oov Education, and The Center for Women’s Fitness. Her priority is to encourage critical reasoning, questioning, and curiosity in her professional education offerings.

Follow Kate on Instagram.

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