Winner of ‘China’s Most Beautiful Yoga Studio’ competition in January 2021, you can easily see why ZEN Yoga Pilates studios in Chongqing, China, took the top prize— the three studios look more like state-of-the-art museums than fitness facilities.
“ZEN is the first designer-concept yoga and Pilates studio in China,” says Chloe Liu, who joined ZEN in 2018 by bringing in four Merrithew™ Reformers as an investment and her Pilates teaching skills to launch the Pilates side of the business.
“We worked with famous designers to realize our goal of tactfully connecting our clients with nature to awaken their inner spirituality and bring them to a balanced place within.”
The word Zen means to achieve a state of calm attentiveness to one’s actions. The ZEN brand emphasizes this philosophy, believing that by bringing Zen, energy and nature together, one can achieve greater mind-body harmony and become healthier as a result.
“Only when you have a peaceful body and mind can your life be happy and comfortable, and you live in the world in peace with every breath,” says Chloe, who is a STOTT PILATES®-trained instructor.
The ZEN studios are designed to reshape clients’ relationship with themselves, and reconnect them to the natural environment.
Here’s how Chloe describes the three studios:
Escape to an urban forest park
The first studio is hidden in the mountains of an urban forest park, a few minutes’ drive from the prosperous, bustling city of Chongqing.
Mountains and forests stretch out as far as the eye can see, enveloping clients and students in verdure, fresh air and the scent of soil to enhance their workout or training session.
In the space of a few minutes, clients and students feel released of their burdens surrounded by the lush greenery, chirping birds, scent of flowers and wind sweeping through the hallways.
As a Host Training Center, this is the location where they host most of their Merrithew™ instructor training courses and workshops.
Learn on top of a mountain
The second studio, named ZEN | Mountain Path, is housed in the only detached villa on top of Jinzi Mountain. This studio focuses on high-end private training in STOTT PILATES® and ZEN•GA®.
Practice in a botanical garden
The third studio, named ZEN | Yoga•Pilates (The Ring), is located in a unique shopping mall in Chongqing. In addition to seven indoor classrooms with large private terraces, the team often moves the equipment into the 42-metre-tall ‘indoor plant dome,’ a large-scale indoor botanical garden where clients can practice Pilates amidst 70,000 ecological plants, allowing the body and mind to be “fully bathed in the forest.”
This location will soon host Merrithew instructor training, and has been dubbed ZEN’s Dappled Grove Fantasy Classroom, where students can fully integrate themselves with nature as they learn.
Discovering Pilates for rehabilitation after a serious car accident
A dancer since a young age, Chloe pursued musical theatre at university. But in 2008, her life took a drastic turn. She got into a serious car accident in Guangzhou, China, injuring her neck and piercing her right eye socket, leaving her temporarily paralyzed and unsure of the future.
She discovered Pilates while undergoing rehabilitation treatment in the United States.
“In just three months of practicing Pilates, I was miraculously able to stand up. Upon returning to China, I quit my job as a TV host and fashion designer and devoted myself to practicing and learning Pilates.
“Pilates helped me recover and live a healthy life after the car accident, and for that, I felt it was my purpose to promote Pilates.”
After several years of studying and practicing Pilates at home and abroad, Chloe set up a Pilates rehabilitation studio in Shanghai and started teaching.
In 2018, she joined ZEN and developed the Pilates client and education business. ZEN now boasts three state-of-the-art studios with a professional team of 20 full-time and 20 part-time instructors, high-quality Merrithew equipment, and a dedicated corps of clients and students.
“There’s fierce competition in the fitness industry here with hundreds of studios vying for clients’ attention and membership. There is constant studio turnover. In the last two years, Pilates has become much more popular with many small studios being established. It is survival of the fittest, and I believe ZEN Yoga Pilates has done so well because our team is committed to providing high-quality equipment and programming first and foremost.
“When I joined ZEN, I had a long-term vision to always use the world’s most professional teaching system and equipment – that’s why I chose Merrithew. Merrithew’s scientific teaching system, premium equipment and globally-recognized brand have laid the foundation on which we’ve established our reputation in Pilates education, instructor training and membership courses and classes,” Chloe says.
Serving a wider client base with better Pilates equipment and training
ZEN stands out from the crowd not just because of its stunning locations, but also because it accommodates a more diverse range of people— of all shapes and sizes, fitness levels and abilities— with Merrithew’s safe and effective programming and highly adjustable equipment.
“Every body is unique and you need to have a high-level of knowledge and expertise, and customizable and adaptable Pilates equipment, in order to attract and support all body and client types,” Chloe says.
In the coming years, she plans to expand her knowledge of Pilates-based physical therapy in order to serve more people in need of effective rehabilitation, like she was after her car accident.
“Pilates gave me a second life. Now I feel that every day is an extra day for me to share the benefits of Pilates with others.”
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