Meet Our Instructors

What makes our staff consistently voted the Best in Birmingham? All of our hot yoga instructors are exclusive to Kiva Hot Yoga. We hold weekly staff meetings to discuss our students' needs and the specialized process to help each student reach their individual goals. Our classes average 20 in a class. With this class size, we get to know each student by name and know what challenges they have and what modifications they may need throughout their yoga journey.

We are required and LOVE continuing our growth as professionals through teacher workshops and additional teacher training. This is not a "side job" for any of us. Teaching yoga is our PASSION. Changing lives physically, mentally and even spiritually is our MISSION.


A Kate Jenkins

Owner/Director

Kiva Hot Yoga director, Kate Jenkins, graduated from Bikram Teacher Training in Spring of 2009. She has taught classes at yoga studios throughout the world. She is a runner, Iron Tribe athlete, overall fitness enthusiast. The heart and foundation of fitness is Hot Yoga.

Kate is a native of Nashville, TN. She attended Loyola University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. She has worked as a Board Certified Music Therapist in therapeutic settings for children with physical and developmental disabilities, those with psychiatric issues, and geriatrics. Kate has made Birmingham home since 2004. She attended Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in 2009 in Palm Desert. Later, she attended Bernie Clark's Yin Yoga Teacher Training in Vancouver in 2014, Vinyasa Yoga for At-Risk Youth Training in Vancouver in 2015 and Buti Yoga Certification in 2016. She is a member of Church of the Highlands and enjoys leading small groups and participating in Infuse at Church of the Highlands.

Kate maintains a strong connection to her Indian reservation – Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico. The tradition and ceremony of her culture means the world to her. “Our people have maintained and celebrated tradition that is ancient. It makes me appreciate the lineage and purity of this Yoga. It consistently creates challenge to give the practitioner what they NEED.” Kate has created a non-profit called Native Strength Revolution. It is a program that will teach yoga/ fitness/ nutrition to Natives on the reservations of the Southwest.


Amy Aquirre

Instructor

Amy practiced other types of yoga for years before she discovered Kiva Hot Yoga in 2013. She knew the first time she walked in the door, she had found the practice she was seeking and the studio she would call home.  She loves the environment at Kiva and is thrilled to be on the team of teachers who have guided and supported her on her own yoga journey.  What Amy likes most about her hot yoga practiceis that the lessons that she learns and practices on the mat carry over to life's challenges presented outside of the hot room.  Her regular Bikram practice help her have patience, strength and calm during life's inevitable storms, and love and accept her imperfect, human self both on and off the mat.  

When she is not teaching or practicing yoga, Amy loves to read and spend time outdoors.  Amy grew up in Birmingham. She enjoys adventure and exploring new places.  She has traveled extensively across the US and the world (14 countries)!  She set goal and worked long, hard hours to make that happen.  Amy taught international students for 13 years and was a third grade teacher for 4 years.  She also worked in Frank Stitt's restaurants for years.She enjoys being around people who make her think, laugh and challenge & inspire her to be her best self.  Amy is excited to share her Bikram yoga practice with you and help guide you on your yoga journey.  It has done so much for her life:  she can't wait to see what it does for your

 


Erin Cornelius

Instructor

Erin is constantly seeking inspiration and she lives to be inspired so that she can be that vessel of inspiration to others. She spent from 2002-2011 on stages all over the country captivating and inspiring people with her voice, but mostly right here in her hometown of Birmingham. She sang all the way up until she was 9 months pregnant and she and her husband welcomed their son. Upon hearing a powerful message at Church of the Highlands just months after their son was born about "Legacy," she rededicated her life to Christ and is now on what she calls her "God agenda journey." Erin says, "It was all about me before and now it's all about others." She and her husband have entrenched themselves in leadership at Church of Highlands and feel the life changing people and truths they have received are the reason for their desire and pursuit in ministry.

Erin was raised by a mother who instilled in her a way of life that was focused on health and wellness. As a young adult her passion grew more centered around physical fitness. That gave her the ability to win a state championship in track and field at Vestavia High School, as well as spending time as a Golden Girl on the dance team at UAB. She has instilled that same lifestyle in her own family, focusing on a way of life that keeps the body cleansed, balanced and built up. Being a person that has battled physical ailments such as carpel tunnel and rotatory tendonitis as well as had food allergies, she has seen first hand the healing abilities of combining good clean eating and yoga. She is taking her life experiences and everything that she has learned to help others improve their quality of life. She thrives on pouring truth into others in order that they have a deeper awareness of their possibilities regarding healing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Erin began to do yoga at home after her child was born and didn't realize until coming with one of her dear friends to Kiva that anything like the 26 Hot Yoga, existed. She will never forget the first time she came and the words that were spoken over her at the end of class. She knew right then, this is where she was supposed to be. From then on she has done all she can to share her testimony about the healing she has received and stays eager to learn all she can about the 26 Hot Yoga. She was part of the first ever graduating class from the Yoga Alliance certified Kiva Hot Yoga Teacher Training of 2015 in Birmingham. Since graduation, Erin has transitioned from a big stage with bright lights and hundreds of people listening to her powerful voice, to a smaller stage with much deeper and more powerful message. She is using this platform as a way to empower people to be all they can be and to bring awareness of the difference truth can make in their lives.


Faye Thrasher

Instructor

 At age 3, Faye Claire was enrolled in the Greenville Ballet in Greenville, South Carolina where she found her love to move her body. She studied ballet at many studios until she was 16 years old when her family moved to Birmingham. Faye Claire attended Auburn University (War Eagle!) majoring in Mass Communications with an interest in Fashion Merchandising. After college she found her way into the advertising industry working at agencies and in media sales.

Yoga has always been present in Faye's life- from watching her mother's VHS yoga tapes, going to classes, to joking about how she would be a yoga teacher and live at the beach.  Little did she know that would become a reality!  Faye received her 200hr RYT at LifePower in 2013 and has not stopped teaching since she graduated.  She is certified to tach heated and non-heated Vinyasa flow, slow flow and Ashtanga.  She is drawn to Vinyasa from her background in ballet.  It helps bring out her inner dancer.  Faye's goal in life is to bring a smile to her students' faces and touch their hearts each class. 

 


Holly Kight

Instructor

Holly is a devoted mother first and foremost. She is a lover of the Birmingham physical fitness community, music, nature, and the arts. The fact that yoga has helped her quiet her mind and to be more focused, has greatly become her therapy and natural medication. Holly is not sure if she "chose" yoga or if yoga chose her but the journey she is on is wonderful and always interesting to say the least.

 


Laura Atkins

Instructor

Laura started as a Bikram yoga practitioner many years ago. She attended Bikram's 9-week Teacher Training in Spring of 2013 in Los Angeles, CA.  She was the first Kiva student to venture off to training!  Laura feels like it's the best thing she's ever don for herself.  What she loves best about yoga is that really is "come as you are". It's for every BODY.  Just show up, be yourself, and of course. BREATHE!  It's not about getting to the fullest expression aof the posture, but more importantly, the journey or the process.  Throw out the road map!

She has always been interested in all styles of yoga.  The desire to share yoga with every body eventually led her to Melissa Scott's Sacred Glow teacher training in 2015.  Discovering Core Strength Vinyasa has helped her find her own voice and develop skills to help practitioners that come to her class with different needs.  Through yoga, Laura has gained self-confidence, relieved anxiety and boosted her mood.  What she hopes you take away from her class:  Feel better than you did when you walked through the door.


Lestryet Yow

Social Media Maven

Lestryet manages the majority of our social media.  You can find him almost daily at Kiva!  Here is his story:

During the summer of 2013 while jogging, I notice a glitch in my left knee and later, I noticed a glitch in my right hip. The physician’s diagnosis was a slight tear in the meniscus of the left knee and osteoarthritis in the right hip and right knee. After surgery, the doctor told me to eliminate jogging and go with less joint taxing routines. That was in November 2013. I tried increasing my weight training, biking and walking; but couldn't break too much of a sweat in those activities or felt safe doing some of them. In March 2014, my daughter suggested I attend a Hot Yoga class with her. It was a great 90 minute workout in a hot room and I created a pool of sweat! Having jogged for such a long time in Birmingham, I was accustomed to heat and humidity thus felt comfortable during the workout...though limited in flexibility. I immediately signed up for a year, bought two instruction books to review the 26 postures, and went to class every day. In September 2014 the Kiva began to offer two other types of classes, Vinyasa and Yin. I continued all three types, as well as the Pilates class later offered, and felt great, but it didn’t eliminate the need for future surgeries; lower back, December 2016, and hip replacement, August 2017. I do credit the daily yoga practice at Kiva and at home totally prepared my body for speedy recovery! I retired in September 2002 after 30 years of service with the Bell System. Married with two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. I received an BS degree from the University of Alabama and an MBA from the University of Alabama Birmingham.


Manisha Kukreja

 Bio coming soon!


Mary Lou Davis

Instructor/Studio Chaplain

She is a freelance writer who has several books published and also writes for local magazines, booklets and websites. One of the booklets she wrote was used in a short film. She is also a freelance photographer. She shoots for local magazines and at stock companies. Her stock photos have been published in Spain, France, Italy, Japan, England as well as in the U.S. Her photographic work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Home and Garden, Sweet Dreams as well as on book covers, corporate brochures and advertisements.

Mary Lou and her husband, Dusty, have been in full-time Christian ministry with athletes for 27 years. They’ve taken sports teams on missions in several countries throughout Europe and Asia.She grew up riding and showing horses and water-skied competitively at Auburn University. She even won the collegiate southeastern championship for jump-skiing. She loves white water kayaking, mountain bike racing and rock climbing. After residing in Oregon fourteen years, she now lives in Alabama where she tears up the red clay on her KTM 250 motorcycle along with her husband and three children on any weekend or any other day she can get away.


Michelle Jones (MJ)

Instructor

Michelle believes that the experience spent on the mat is a mirror of one's life. Her aim is to facilitate clarity and safety while the student pursues the powerful connection between body, soul, and one's true spiritual nature. She completed her 200hr RYT certification in the Summer of 2015 and teaches the 26 Hot 90-minute and 26 Express 60-minute classes. She is also a Recovery Coach and the Intensive Outpatient Program Assistant at Western Mental Health.

She has practiced meditation and was naturally drawn to yogic philosophy since before having a yoga mat or attending a yoga class. She finally began practicing Bikram Yoga when invited by local hero, Charlie Baker. Very quickly two things happened-she could walk down the stairs without knee pain, and her doctor told her there was no longer a need for her sleep disorder medication. That first bit of physical freedom opened the door to find her own potential.

In her class, there is an emphasis on focus and meditation. She truly believes that refusing environmental distractions and finding your center is both your starting point and finish line during the 26 Hot Yoga class. Understanding that parts of this yoga series, may be challenging at times, she is honored to provide guidance, acceptance, and support as each person creates his or her personal experience.

Michelle has attended posture clinics with Lynn Whitlow, Joseph Encinia, and Benjamin Sears, and participated in several workshops including Chair Yoga with India Henson and Kids Yoga with Annie Damsky. Her goal is to teach yoga in public schools and reach more underprivileged demographics with this healing practice.

She does not like peaches at all. Her friends call her MJ. She has two rescue dogs. Loves Philadelphia and enjoys racquetball and cycling.


Mystie Arnold

Instructor

Mystie grew up in Leeds, Alabama and attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for four years. After college, she moved back to Birmingham and began the long journey that ultimately brought her to yoga. She has always enjoyed staying active, although a brief time with health issues kept her from doing her usual exercise routines. A long-time friend invited her to her first hot yoga class and she immediately fell in love (after the second class)!

In 2012, Mystie began working as Office Manager at the studio. In the Fall of 2013, she attended and completed Yoga Teacher Training in Santa Barbara, California, through Evolation Yoga.

Mystie enjoys sharing the benefits of yoga with the recovering community. She finds joy in seeking a closer relationship with God, spending time with her family and singing in the Alto section with the Shades Mountain Baptist Church Choir. And, of course, she loves teaching yoga with the Kiva Hot Yoga team.


Natalie Evans

Instructor

Iowa native, Natalie Evans had made Alabama home since 2001.  In 2011, on a recommendation from a friend to get in shape for swimsuit season, Natalie joined Kiva.  It soon became apparent early in her practice that getting in swimsuit shape merely scratched the surfaceof how yoga could change her life.  Natalie did notice changes in her bodyand also in her life perspective as well, resulting in a more grounded and calmer attitude.  Natalie completed Inferno Hot Pilates training in May of 2017 and completed the 200 hour Kiva Hot Yoga Teacher Training in 2017.

Natalie truly appreciates the power of the hot yoga snd it's ability to transform lives.  She hopes to be a teacher who encourages students to be kind to themselves while doing their best for that day- one breath at a time.


Nicole Martinez

Instructor

Yoga has been a real gift that not only helped me heal past trauma, it has also strengthened my body and mind.  It keeps me flexible physically and mentally, which important since I'm a mother of four amazing kids.  I am happily married to my biggest supporter, Oscar and I adore him for adoring me.

After practicing yoga for several years, I went to Evolation Yoga Teacher training in 2014 and completed the 250 hour Primary Hot training. I have continued my education through several courses and trainings including the Love Your Brain YTT, Everybody Biomechanics, Yoga for Kids, Buti YTT, and many other workshops to deepen my understanding of yoga and how it affects the body. I'm passionate about helping people find healing and improving their quality of life through mindful movement.

 I am originally from Pennsylvania so you can expect a strong and direct, but positive teaching style. Know that I care about you and its my goal to help you achieve whatever goals you have for your movement practice.

 Although yoga is fantastic, it is not my savior—Jesus is. Yoga is transformative, but the truth is that there is no true and lasting transformation without the Spirit of God. In fact, my relationship with God is where I get my true strength, it's how I overcome depression, it's how I withstand the overwhelm of raising 4 kids in the world we live in, it's the only peace my heart has ever known.

 


Pamela York

Instructor

 

Pamela grew up in Birmingham and graduated from UAB.  An avid runner for years, she was first attracted to yoga to help mend and prevent common ailments.  The connection between food, exercise, physical healthand mental well being have always intrigued Pamela and yoga seemed like a natural fit.  Her journey beganin 2012 when she took her first hot yoga class.  The physical benefits were immediate.  However, as she persisted with the various postures and breathing exercises, she also learned how to relax the mind and truly release stress from her body.  

Her hope is to share yoga with the everyday person (those working 9-5 days or shift work, busy parents, stressed executives, those trying to make ends meet), to create a welcoming space for them to embark on their own journey.  Pam is honored to start teaching where her journey began and is forever grateful for the teachers before her that helped create a vision she never knew!


Stacey Handelong

Instructor

 

I started my yoga practice in Laguna Beach, CA in 2006.

My life before this Yoga was stressful... I thought normal posture was clenced jaw, tensed shoulders, hands in fists and sleeples nights.  How quickly I learned my mind was holding my body hostage.  Stress and tension had rewired my muscles.  After my first sweat on the mat, I began to feel the difference of what it really means to relax.  My body went through a complete muscle transformation or releasing- lowering my shoulders, unclenching my jaw, relaxing my neck muscles: ultimately, learning to surrender the struggle of resistance.  Talk about gaining more energy-  All in!

I completed Bikram Yoga Certification in Hawaii, Spring of 2007, and attended Bikram's Advanced series training in Las Vegas in 2010.   I taught extensively thoughout Phoenix, instructing Beginner's Class and the Advanced Class.  I've had awesome opportunities to be in front of master trainers that influenced both my personal practice and my teaching.

I participated in the Arizona Asana Regional Championships 2008 & 2009, Southeastern US Regional Championships 2012 & 2013 and representing Kiva Hot Yoga in the National Asana Championships in NYC in 2012.

I continue to be amazed by this practice... there are days it just blows my mind, knowing how darn good it is for you!  I highly advise getting on the mat, quieting your mind and knowing your world is about to change.   


Taylor Hall

Instructor

Taylor grew up in a tiny town in middle Georgia called Byron. She went to college at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, where she earned her undergrad degree in Literature. It was one of her favorite college professors who first introduced her to hot yoga! She began attending the weekly karma class offered by the studio, and quickly fell in love with the practice!  After college, she moved to Birmingham in May 2016 with her family. Though it took six months for her to find Kiva, the moment she walked through the doors she knew she was home. She began her journey at Kiva, practicing as often as she could, and eventually learned of teacher training happening in summer 2017! She couldn’t wait to learn to help others change their lives with such an amazingly beneficial practice! The rest, as they say, is history.

Taylor is also incredibly passionate about JESUS! Though she grew up in church, within the past year she has discovered the wonders and unconditional love of God, and realizes that it is only by His grace that she has achieved the things she has. She uses her spiritual gift of singing to serve at Church of the Highlands’ Infuse program, and prays to impact lives doing what she loves. She’s also more than happy to sing any Disney song, if requested.

            In her spare time Taylor can be found practicing yoga, at Church of the Highlands, reading a book, writing her own, or watching a crime show such as NCIS or Criminal Minds; the last three of these activities are mostly likely done while snuggling with her kitten, Loki.