Kaya Aerial Yoga’s owner and studio director, Carrie Ann, came to discover the uniquely revitalizing and rejuvenating effects of aerial yoga in a rather unusual manner. You might say it all began well over a decade ago, when Carrie was involved in an auto accident that propelled her through a windshield, and left her with permanent nerve damage and a chronic pain condition.
After unsuccessfully trying everything from meditation to traditional floor yoga in an effort to alleviate her pain, Carrie eventually discovered aerial yoga, and learned that Philly was home to just one dedicated aerial yoga studio: Kaya.
That very first class she took at Kaya was nothing less than a revelation. Partially because aerial yoga allowed Carrie to practice without having to put weight on her damaged leg, she found it enormously helpful in keeping her pain condition temporarily at bay.
As Carrie’s pain continued to subside, she returned to Kaya over and over again, soon becoming a regular. And then came something of a bombshell: The woman who owned Kaya at the time announced that the business might soon be closing its door for good. She’d been attempting to sell the studio, she explained, but had no takers. And so Carrie found herself with a decision to make: Go back to her old way of life, where her bad leg kept her in bed for hours each day. Or buy the studio herself.
She chose the latter. The transfer of the studio was successfully completed within the next six months. Carrie completed a 100 Hour Aerial Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT) program before assuming control of Kaya. She also worked with a private instructor to earn her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training certification.
After noticing numerous deficiencies in various AYTT programs, Carrie went on to develop Kaya’s 100 Hour AYTT program with the assistance of several senior Kaya instructors. In the months since, she has continued to grow the schedule of aerial class offerings here at Kaya.
With an educational background in graphic design, Carrie strives to bring creativity and a fresh perspective to every class she teaches. She believes class should be a sacred space that allows students to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually, while at the same time allowing for periods of laughter and fun. She especially loves the childlike joy and excitement—and the challenges—that an aerial practice offers.
Carrie works hard to help her students improve their functional flexibility and strength. She also enjoys helping students use aerial yoga to overcome various types of chronic pain and related pain conditions.
When she’s not in the studio, Carrie stays busy by keeping her graphic design skills current, by working on various arts-and-crafts projects, and by rescuing and socializing feral and free-roaming cats.
Alexandra Densmore is a native Floridian who loves wildlife, adventures, and living life to the absolute fullest. She became a practitioner of yoga while studying biology and the endocrine system at university, and decided to sign up for a yoga class that was being offered to students at her school.
Over a decade later, yoga is still a hugely important part of Alexandra’s life. She discovered aerial yoga six years ago, while she and a friend were looking for new experiences they could share together. Today, Alexandra remains fascinated with the various ways in which the mind can unlock one’s inner strength. She’s especially passionate about helping her students connect with their minds and their bodies on an entirely new level.
The study of Ayurveda continues to heavily influence Alexandra’s life and her personal practice. She is AYTT certified and Yoga Alliance RYT 200 certified. Along with her enthusiasm for the aerial arts, Alexandra is a practitioner of Krav Maga, and of AcroYoga. “I love AcroYoga,” she says, “because it is also a practice of trust, like aerial yoga.”
Alexandra has a Bachelors degree from Temple University in psychology and religion, with a concentration in public life and behaviorism. In her spare time, Alexandra enjoys hiking, video games, wildlife photography, and spending time with her rescue dogs.
After earning a university degree in anthropology and then working in both the United States and the Netherlands, Sara Filseth spent a number of years working in the field of cancer research.
The death of her father from lung cancer provided the impetus for her career switch, which led to positions at the University of Iowa, the University of Pennsylvania, and Fox Chase Cancer Center. Seeking a respite from the world of medical research, Sara eventually decided to pursue her goal of working full-time as a yoga instructor.
Sara has now been practicing yoga—mainly Ashtanga and Ashtanga-based Vinyasa yoga—for well over a decade. She’s been practicing aerial yoga for roughly two years.
Sara loves working in both traditional and aerial yoga, and is especially fond of working with beginners, or, for that matter, anyone interested in advancing or deepening their practice. She has practiced and taught alignment-based yoga, as well as yoga designed specifically to improve chronic pain, injuries, and physical and mental health issues. Sara also enjoys researching and reading in yogic areas outside of asana, including the Yoga Sutras, mantras, and the Gods and their history.
Sara’s career goals include taking more advanced trainings—including Yoga Alliance 500 RYT and Yoga Therapy—and adding onto her collection of professional certifications in the process.
Sara is also an incredibly passionate lover of animals. For years she has fostered rescue greyhounds and volunteered for greyhound rescue organizations. She’s also been known to help troubled animals and their owners, and she loves walking dogs and tending to cats.
One of the most recent senior instructors added to the teaching roster at Kaya Aerial Yoga, Kayla Ankeny is proud of the fact that her particular style of teaching has been greatly influenced by her eclectic background.
At the age of 14, she stumbled upon a VHS yoga cassette and began practicing after school in her mother’s living room; she was soon hooked. Kayla’s somatic studies expanded as she began training in both Capoeira and dance in 2005.
Fascinated by the intricacies of the human body, she trained in massage therapy at the Massage Arts Center of Philadelphia in 2007 (LMT). In 2009, she completed her Yoga Teacher Training at Dhyana Yoga in Philadelphia (200 RYT). Kayla earned her BFA in Dance with a minor in French from Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance in 2012. And in 2014, she became a level 1 AIR Yogalates trainer (aerial yoga), and is now an AcroYoga JAMbassador. Kayla (aka Estagiaria Meia Noite) is also a Capoeira teacher.
Inspired by the vibrant energy of the city of Morocco, Kayla recently decided to give life in Northern Africa a try. While living in Casablanca, she focused on her yoga practice and pedagogy. She taught Vinyasa, Pilates, Barre, Aerial Yoga, AcroYoga and Capoeira at centres throughout Casablanca.
Although she has since returned to her hometown, Kayla continues to teach in this city she so loves. She is also continuing her studies of Pilates at Drexel University, and yoga with Alex Auder and Marni Sclaroff. Kayla also sings with Svitanya, an Eastern European women’s vocal ensemble, and occasionally appears as a singer, dancer or percussionist with other world music groups in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Jennifer Silvestri has been deeply interested in the expression of movement all her life. She studied ballet for 16 years, for instance, beginning at the age of 4. So when a friend introduced her to the art of aerial silks a few years back, she developed a fascination with it almost immediately.
Jenn discovered Kaya during a search for studios where she could take aerial classes on a regular basis, which led to her discovering aerial yoga.
“I immediately fell in love with aerial yoga and knew I wanted to pursue teaching as a career,” Jenn says. “I took traditional yoga on and off for years, but never found the right class or the right teacher for me. Which led me to injure my shoulders. Which led me to my first restorative yoga class. After that, yoga became a daily practice for me. Yoga has taught me how to slow down and be more balanced.”
Jenn is currently enrolled in a 600 Hour Ayurveda and Yoga Health Counselor Training program with Focus Ayurveda (formerly Banyan Yoga & Ayurveda). The training involves 100 hours of Yoga and Ayurveda Foundations, 200 hours of Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist (AYS) training, 100 hours of Community Herbalism training, and 200 hours of Advanced Ayurvedic Intake and Treatment training.
Aside from being a certified aerial yoga instructor, Jenn is also a health and wellness coach, having attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Her other certifications have come from the 50-hour Immersion program at Dig Yoga and a 20-hour Restorative Training session at Honor Yoga.
Jenn approaches both her practice and her teaching with a “beginner’s mind.” She focuses on maintaining an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions that she hopes will be passed on to all the students with whom she interacts.
Jenn lives in South Philadelphia with her fiancé, Dave, and their three amazing cats. She has tried her hand at a wide range of trades over the years, including cosmetology and diamond cutting. In her free time, Jenn enjoys making jewelry. Most recently, she’s begun learning Krav Maga and taking pole fitness classes.
Lee Thompson is a seasoned aerial performer and instructor based in Philadelphia, with over 8 years of experience in circus arts.
Lee teaches beginner, intermediate, and advanced aerial classes at Kaya Aerial Yoga, Awakenings Pole Dance Fitness, and Tangle Movement Arts. She choreographs and performs aerial arts throughout the Greater Philadelphia and New York areas with Tangle Movement Arts and other companies.
Lee is a founding member of Tangle Movement Arts, an eight-woman contemporary circus company that blends aerial performance with dance, drama, and spoken word. With Tangle, she choreographs and performs aerial work in Greater Philadelphia and New York, ranging from Tangle’s full-length theater shows to tinycircus, a free, public series of pop-up circus performances designed to reach out to neighborhoods and promote the arts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas.
Lee is an ever-evolving artist, specializing in aerial hoop, silks, and hammock, while also exploring innovative blending of apparatuses in solo and partner contexts. For Lee, helping others find the mental and emotional strength to get in touch with and trust their bodies, while watching their confidence thrive, is the most rewarding aspect of teaching circus arts. Lee’s training as an aerial instructor includes workshops at The New England Center for Circus Arts in spotting and technique, and aerial rigging workshops with renowned aerial rigger Brett Copes.
Christine Cifelli completed her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training and 100 Hour Aerial Yoga Teacher Training at Kaya. She signed up for her first aerial yoga class in 2013 to escape her everyday routine, and to try something new. It was during that very first class when she realized that aerial yoga would almost certainly begin playing an important role in her personal development.
It was aerial yoga, for instance, that impressed upon Christine the enormous importance of facing her fears—fears she wasn’t even aware of until she jumped into an aerial hammock for the first few times. Christine had always felt that she needed a creative outlet with which to relieve stress, instill calmness, and open her heart. Aerial yoga, clearly, was that outlet.
Christine challenges students to let go of hesitation, tap into their inner strength, and use breath and movement to activate their bodies. Her teaching style focuses on the balance of receiving and conserving energy—re-energizing the body while unwinding and relaxing the mind.
Christine currently works as a project manager in the financial services sector and lives in the Gayborhood. She moved to Philadelphia in 2013 after taking a few months to explore Europe, gaining new friends and experiences along the way. When she’s not flying in a hammock, she enjoys traveling, reading, and taking advantage of Philadelphia’s restaurant scene.
Kelley Loder is a software developer by day and an aerial yoga and circus enthusiast by night. She had no idea what she was getting herself into when she took her first aerial yoga class at Kaya in January 2014, but nonetheless, she soon became a regular, enrolling in every class she could fit on her calendar.
Her favorite thing about the classes at Kaya? It was the fact that she could continually see herself improving, and that there seemed to be virtually no end to what could be learned. It was addictive!
Kelley’s aerial yoga teaching career officially got its start when she substitute taught a Beginner Hammock class. That very first front-of-the-class experience led her to understand that while tracking her own progress was certainly satisfying, it was even more satisfying to see her students’ progress, and to feel responsible for helping them achieve it.
Kelley completed her Yoga Alliance 200 hour and her Aerial Yoga 100 hour teacher training programs in the summer of 2016. And although she loves teaching, she considers herself to be a “forever student,” taking conditioning and circus classes at Kaya on a weekly basis.
When she’s not in the studio, she can be found practicing her headstands against her office door at the Comcast Center, out exploring Philadelphia’s bars and restaurants, trying to beat every Legend of Zelda game, or relaxing at her home in Northern Liberties with her husband, three cats, and Golden Retriever.
Mary Stegura grew up in the dance community, and studied dance in both high school and college. Currently studying for her Masters degree in Arts Administration at Drexel University, Mary has always been interested in how the body moves, and in sharing her knowledge of movement and the body with others.
As a busy person who seems to be constantly planning for her future, Mary’s yoga practice has helped her to focus on the present moment, and to use that focus to her advantage. Instead of constantly looking forward, yoga has helped immensely in allowing Mary to enjoy where she is at the present moment.
Mary is a graduate of Kaya Aerial Yoga’s Aerial Yoga Teacher Training (AYTT) program. She also has her 200 Hour Yoga Alliance certification, and has been teaching at Kaya since June 2016.
Mary has a BFA degree in Dance, and has performed with the New York-based Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. She has an especially keen interest in anatomy and functional anatomy, and has participated in workshops that have focused on anatomy, mindfulness, and arm balances. Mary’s professional goals involve continuing to practice, to teach, and to grow, and to learn new ways to connect with both her students and her own self.