ZEN•GA 101

by Leslie Braverman on December 17, 2015

“There’s an exciting ZEN•GA™ hum in the studio. We’re committing to merging fascial science with movement that targets and refreshes fascia, the body’s intricate connective tissue system, in a method of serene, focussed, mindful awareness. And ZEN•GA at PNWP is mine. It’s my baby.” —Katherine Brown, STOTT PILATES and ZEN•GA Instructor Trainer.

Pacific NW Pilates certified ZEN•GA instructor during her ZEN•GA training at Merrithew in Toronto, Canada.

I fell in love over and over as I tested each principle during my ZEN•GA training at Merrithew HQ in Toronto, Canada in 2016. (I’m in the center.)

What is ZEN•GA?

Fascia is fascinating scientists, movement teachers and medical therapists. The elastic, connective tissue that once merely obscured medical examination of the circulatory system, bones, joints, and organs is now recognized as an important key to how we move, function, and thrive within our skin.

Flow Picture

The four principles of ZEN•GA’s mindful movement are Breath, Support, Yield and Flow.

Created in 2012 by the team behind STOTT PILATES (the gold standard for professional Pilates education), ZEN•GA is a fresh method of teaching a person to move, concentrating on feeling and “seeing” movement within the whole body, holistically. Releasing tightness. Extending reach and range. The “ZEN” tips you off to its ultimate aim: linking body and mind.

ZEN•GA classes frame the emerging science of fascial lines with ancient traditions of heightened states of mindfulness during movement—in other words, optimal function through fluid, sequential movement.

ZEN•GA Breath

If you’ve practiced Pilates for a while then you’ve learned how important breath is. ZEN•GA expands the definition of optimal breathing, and defines additional tools to unlock better breathing practices.

The dome of our diaphragm resides inside our ribcage—that elegantly designed support structure that is a fascial wonderland.

The dome of our diaphragm resides inside our ribcage—that elegantly designed support structure that we now know is a fascial wonderland.

Rather than teaching choreographed breath patterns, ZEN•GA tailors breath technique to infuse vital, visualized energy into both global and fine movements. Nothing should feel forced, strained or static. We use the breath—and fine-tuned, eloquent visual imagery and cues—to maintain heightened mindfulness to keep energy flowing.

ZEN•GA Support

The support principle refers to alignment, or good posture.

An alert mind—more so than posture "rules—refreshes alignment..

Exemplary work in the studio is undone when our clients return to their daily routines of sitting, commuting, or riveted to mobile devices. ZEN•GA is a fresh approach to self-regulate posture and alignment in the course of daily life.

Good Pilates teachers work hard to make sure exercises are performed with good alignment. However, every one of us has witnessed clients who executed excellent form and beautifully functioning bodies finish class, grab their shoes, and dash out of class just as slumped, tucked or crooked as when they walked in. It’s frustrating and puzzling!

ZEN•GA supplies the missing link to help clients fully integrate good movement principles into their daily lives.  It ignores “perfect” posture as a collection of rules to follow—a set of boxes to check off. Instead, ZEN•GA encourages organic discovery to find what good alignment means to each person, within their body, by experiencing and understanding their own bodies more deeply.

ZEN•GA Yield 

The yield principle is about achieving that perfect balance between work and rest, push and pull, tension and ease.

Science finds great difference between well-sued fascial tissue and the bunched, chaotic fibers of the inactive. I compare this to the difference between the textures of silk and a dryer sheet!

The differences in moving and sitting still deeply affects our fascia. ZEN•GA works to associate glitch-free movement with calm recognition. I compare this to the difference between silk—and a rough dryer sheet!

As we go about our daily tasks we recruit an appropriate level of work from our muscular system—enough to get the job done without rigidity or excess tension. This is something that your muscles typically do on their own without your executive function getting involved. The process fails, with destructive results, because of habitually doing too little, or too much.

ZEN•GA encourages a dynamic relationship between individual body segments based on fascial lines, and then expands the concept to the relationships between body and its environment. It is exciting for ZEN•GA teachers see our clients feel their bodies as one holistic system, and that A-Ha! moment when they begin to unlock their movement potential.

Kim Kraushar, who led the Merrithew team in creating ZEN•GA.

PNWP brings inspiring Kim Kraushar, STOTT PILATES Master Instructor, internationally recognized fitness expert, and lead ZEN•GA team creator to visit our studio. She was PNWPE’s personal instructor in preparation for our 2016 and 2017 workshops. And she administered my final ZEN•GA certification exam!


The principle of flow is mastery of the first three principles. It goes like this:

  1. Optimize breath
  2. Find supportive alignment
  3. Access dynamic yield both within the body—and with the environment— to
  4. Achieve the fluid harmony of flow

Flow is that moment. You know it. You’ve probably felt it in Pilates or the sweetest golf thwack—when everything lines up just right. In harmony. Each part of your body supportive of the others in precisely the way intended. You feel strong and capable, yet light, balanced, and easy at the same time. These are moments of breakthrough or personal best. Wouldn’t it be amazing to achieve that kind of flow on a regular basis?

The ZEN of it all. At your command. Try ZEN•GA.

The ZEN of it all. At your command. That’s ZEN•GA.

Practicing ZEN•GA is all about inviting positive change, rather than forcing it, and awakening your natural intelligence with guided insights.

In 2018, I’ll teach ZEN•GA Facscial Fitness: Exploring Arm Lines. On June 3, 2018 double dip into ZEN•GA Power & Strength and ZEN•GA Lower Body Focus. Will you join me to discover your inner ZEN•GA?

Katherine Brown, Certified ZEN•GA Instructor, Certified STOTT PILATES Instructor Trainer


Pacific NW Pilates is Portland’s finest Pilates resource for personal fitness and therapeutic Pilates.  The studio specializes in customized fitness instruction by 24 fully certified, talented and experienced instructors.

Pacific NW Pilates Education is a STOTT PILATES licensed training center, and offers a full range of professional career education courses and continuing education workshops throughout the year.  

Pacific NW Pilates is studio, school and fitness family under one roof. Click to learn more about our education courses and workshops, private studio sessions and group classes. Or call for details: (503) 292-4409.