Ray Tokareff participates in a Triadic Heart Yoga class at Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club.

Body, heart, mind

Practiced regularly, any yoga will tone muscles, increase flexibility, promote inner peace and provide a "feeling of being put together." Anna K. Rose tries to take it further with Triadic Heart Yoga, an ancient mode that blends the physical with the contemplative to "open powerful energy in the heart."

Teaching at Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club, Rose takes her students through a series of poses that demand some serious physical energy (bring a sweatband!). At the same time, students listen to soothing Indian music and respond to suggestions, such as "blend the feminine and masculine in your heart" or "find that six-pointed star in your heart" or "focus on the upward, pointed triangle in your heart."

It's decidedly not your basic, gym-based yoga class, and after some weeks with Triadic Heart Yoga, students are familiar with such visualizations.

Molly Ochoa, who has practiced yoga under Rose for five years, notes, "Philosophy with yoga creates a heart-filling experience. The basics of philosophy make it easy to apply the yoga to life experience and relationship with all beings."

Some of the poses are quite demanding, such as one where practitioners crouch and tense their elbows between their knees while supporting their entire weight on their hands. Yow. It looks like an asana (pose) that would force you to empty your mind of random thoughts and focus on ... your heart. And so it is.

"Anna has got a really, really spiritual flow to her," says student Joseph Crowell. "It's relaxed and fun. Being in your core and heart — it makes me want to take it out into the world and practice it, plus it keeps me flexible and strong and centered."

Rose explains that Triadic Heart Yoga helps students focus on and blend the body, mind and heart.

"We encourage all of them to come together when we do the poses, with the understanding that yoga originally was to get the body in shape so you could meditate," says Rose, a concert pianist and piano teacher at Southern Oregon University.

"You feel your muscles getting stronger. ... You create a container with the pose. You feel stronger and more focused in life, and you take that out in the world. You breathe deeply into it and saturate it through your body."

The goal of Triadic Heart Yoga is "to make you more who you really are, to help you discover and excavate more parts of your inner world," Rose says. "Our meditation at the end of class — focusing on the heart center — is very powerful, breathing and sharing silence in a safe space and community, so you engage the world more deeply from your authentic core. It brings people a lot of peace and self-renewal."

Triadic Heart has been around for at least 1,500 years, Rose says.

"It's a system that does not highlight enlightenment," she explains. "It takes your wounds and flaws and turns them into beauty. It's not a system of escape but of bringing meditation into our existence in the real world."

Ochoa describes it as "stepping outside yourself and tiptoeing through yourself, being taken into this deep philosophy, deeply rooted to your core. It's different than any other yoga I've experienced because she brings it back to the humanity in each person."

Rose has taught yoga in Ashland for six years. Her classes meet from 9:45 to 11 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, with "Power Yoga" (more sweat, more arm balances) at 6 p.m. Wednesdays. The cost is $8 (included in a $15 day pass, which provides access to spa, weight room and other facilities of Ashland Tennis & Fitness Club, located at the dead end of Jefferson Street, near the south Ashland freeway interchange.)

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