Fitness studio offers self-care classes with yoga and journaling – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Photo by Denise Baratta Tess Ball leads students in a fitness class at Ashland Strength Studio.

Photo by Denise Baratta Laura Flower uses a kettlebell during a fitness class at Ashland Strength Studio.

Ashland Strength Studio helps people overcome isolation

As depression and anxiety skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, people started hearing more about the importance of self-care.

But many common ideas for self-care — like reading, taking a walk, or working on an art project — are isolated activities.

Ashland Strength Studio owner Tess Ball wants to change that. Her studio assistant, Natalie Paul, came up with the idea for a class that combines yoga and journaling.

Ball now teaches the Hot Mess Self-Care Hour course. People meet on Tuesday evenings to listen to an invitation to write, express themselves in a journal and, if they wish, share their thoughts with the other students in the class. A 40-minute yoga session follows, and people are invited to come out afterwards to chat.

Ball said humans are wired to be part of a community.

“Meaningful conversations that go beyond the surface are an essential part of self-care,” she said. “Rates of depression, anxiety and mental illness have increased. Isolation is not what we are made for. I wanted to give people a space to connect. I was craving this – and it turns out other people were too.

Ball readily admits that she’s no self-care guru.

“I don’t claim to have the answers for everyone. Personal care is unique to everyone. Everyone has a different relationship with their body,” she said. “But I know none of us are doing that well right now. I want to be transparent and lighthearted that everyone is struggling. It seems more authentic.

Ball opened the Ashland Strength Studio in January. The fitness studio is nestled downstairs under Sew Creative, a quilting and sewing studio located at 111 E. Main St. in downtown Ashland.

She said the fitness studio attracts a variety of people, including introverts and people who have recently moved to the area and want to make friends.

Ball’s goal is to provide a welcoming space for people of all shapes, ages, colors and genders.

“There is no right way to have a body. So many people have been told that their body is not a good body. Bodies are magical,” she said.

At all times, Ball said, our nervous systems are communicating, our lungs are getting oxygen, our heart is beating, and our skin is holding everything together. She wants people to feel wonder and gratitude for their bodies.

Ball previously had a career in marketing, where she felt she was fattening and exploiting people’s insecurities.

“I was the person selling ‘fixes’ for this – food and cosmetics and expensive clothes and cars to fill this void. And none of that was true. Recognizing the total humanity of having a body is life changing,” Ball said.

Her journey into a fitness career began when she took a yoga class. She opened a fitness studio in Seattle, then moved to Ashland, where she started her new business.

Rather than using weight machines or traditional dumbbells, the Ashland Strength Studio is equipped with a set of kettlebells – round weights with a handle.

People gain strength, mobility, coordination, and balance by swinging or lifting kettlebells in different ways. Some moves are simple, like doing a squat while holding a kettlebell to your chest.

Others are more advanced, such as rising from the ground to a standing position through a series of movements known as the Turkish preparation.

“It really challenges your heart in a fun and interesting way,” Ball said.

Ball said she was drawn to kettlebells because, like yoga, they offer simplicity. People can get a full body workout without a room full of machines.

Kettlebell classes range from an introduction to the basics to a circuit training class.

Ashland Strength Studio also offers a free VIP sweat session for healthcare workers at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. It’s Ball’s way of thanking healthcare workers and helping them take care of themselves.

“So many times over the past couple of years, I’ve been so impressed with people showing care when it often seems like a thankless job,” she said. “It must suck. When things suck, often the body is the first thing that gets overlooked. Basic needs are neglected out of necessity.

If healthcare workers cannot make it to the free monthly on-site class, Ashland Strength Studio can send a trainer to their workplace for a free group class.

Ball said she plans to add more classes and events for the community that could range from an injury prevention class to a book club.

For more information and event updates, visit

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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