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Balancing Act at ZeSa

North Loop’s newest fitness boutique combines balance, strength, and innovation


ZeSa's logo is displayed on the wall when you first walk into the studio. Photos by Maxine Whitely.

Set for a grand opening in mid-September, the ZeSa studio’s unassuming storefront makes way to a studio space that looks like a jungle gym. Walls are filled with shelves storing half-orbs, the ceiling supports thick rings attached by a large spring, and the floor is dotted with black circular mats. Most of the equipment looks foreign, nothing like what one might see at a traditional fitness center.

The inside of the studio

Soon, the outside of the shop, located just behind the Guthrie, will match its unique inside. Geometric shapes will be showcased on the windows, signaling a cutting edge way of working out. Using a variety of customized equipment, ZeSa founder Shanti Rainey is creating a system that encourages balance as a way to build strength.

The most notable–and most often utilized–workout accessories are the activators. Created by Rainey, these Bosu ball-like small orbs with rotating plates on top push participants at group classes and individual sessions to stabilize their bodies on unstable surfaces. The activators create three planes of motion so that the body is challenged and engaged continuously. Given the difficulty of building balance, there are five levels of activators with bases that go from a pancake shape to a perfect sphere. The more spherical an activator's base is, the harder it is to balance.

Every participant has two activators on their mat. Often, exercises only include one, but two are imperative for movements like squats.

Once participants get a grip on the basics, the classes incorporate weighted movement using the activators. Lunges, squats, bicep curls, planks, and all other “traditional” workout exercises are done on the unstable surfaces, forcing smaller muscles all over the body to fire, fostering strength.

For arm workouts like tricep dips, Rainey created a device called an escalator, which is flat to the ground but still compresses and moves to simulate instability. For rehabilitation purposes, ZeSa also offers stimulators, which are the flattest versions of activators. They are still unstable, but more subtly so that muscles have more time to adjust to the unusual environment.

The rings connected from the ceiling are mounted on springs to create unsteadiness, but also to protect shoulder joints. The pliancy of the spring takes the onus out of the joint upon impact and allows the muscles to take over.

The rings are only used at the 75-minute class on Saturday mornings, a session geared towards more experienced participants.

All of these thoughtful adjustments to conventional workouts have led way to an entirely new workout method. From rehabilitation to strength building, ZeSa is reinventing balance, and through that, strength.

ZeSa Fitness
1024 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis

These pads go on top of the rotating plates on the activators. They are made out of the same material as lululemon yoga mats to avoid slipping or sliding.


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