Instructors & Staff
Meet the professional instructors who teach you to fly…
Owner, Yoga, Pilates, BB Barre & Paddlefit Instructor
Tory has always been interested in exercise and has taught numerous forms of movement since her teenage years ranging from aerobics and weightlifting to downhill skiing. Tory is certified through Power Pilates and is proud of her training. She truly believes that the certification is only the foundation of her knowledge and therefore travels to NY often for educational conferences. Many of the senior teachers at Power Pilates trained in the heart of the Pilates development. Tory is thrilled to bring that knowledge back to Blackbird and share it with the community.
Tory is a registered nurse, Baptiste Certified Yoga Instructor, Power Pilates Certified Instructor, and BB Barre Instructor . Tory teaches PRIVATES, semi privates and group classes.
Tory loves to cook, garden and ski.
Tory’s belief in Yoga comes from following the system and the experience of seeing the system transform not only her body and mind but those of her community.
Read Tory's full bio...
Zainab Zakari, E-RYT 200, RYT 500
Zainab has been teaching yoga since 2007, and she currently teaches all levels of Vinyasa Flow in and around Ithaca, NY. Her classes feature several styles & traditions including Prana Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, & Viniyoga, and they bring attention to anatomy, alignment and movement. She enjoys the mindfulness, physical awareness and playful adventure one can find in yoga and strives to integrate these elements, along with humor and kindness, into her classes. Zainab has happily studied with and is eternally grateful to Prana Vinyasa Flow founder Shiva Rea and the Prana Flow tribe in addition to her foundational teachers Lisa Bennett Matkin and Charles Matkin. Zainab is an E-RYT 200 certified instructor and is 300 hr-certified in Prana Vinyasa Flow. She remains a student of life and has also published writings in media, including DoYouYoga.com, Fit Yoga, Women’s eNews, Zink, & Living MySore, a former online magazine.
Yoga & BB Barre Instructor
Cassie was introduced to yoga early in middle school when she started taking classes with her mom, studio owner Tory Jenis. The love of yoga, however, didn’t stick until high school, when she was mature enough to understand the intricacies of the discipline. Having completed the first and second levels of training with Baron Baptiste and her 200 hour Yoga Alliance certification, she is attacking the study of yoga with passion. Cassie completed her BB Barre training last February and has been teaching Barre since Fall 2013. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her dogs, Peppermint and Patty, reading anything she can get her hands on, and painting.
The first time I ever did a yoga class was about 18 years ago when I was training to become a fitness instructor and personal trainer. I was blown away by the 70 years young Viniyoga instructor whose flexibility was just awe inspiring. I have since then dedicated myself to health and wellness, working out and training myself and others. Fast forward 15 years when I injured myself lifting weights. I decided to do more yoga especially since it was helpful a few years ago pre-the-lastest-set-of-injuries. So I hobbled into a local yoga studio and it felt like coming home. Yoga is just….flipping awesome! It feels so wonderful in my mind and in my body. Never one to half step, I went ahead and did teacher training to became a 200 hour RYT. I have been granted the opportunity to work with some fantastic teachers including over the years who have taught me how wonderful a place of refuge my mat is. So now, I pay it forward by guiding my fellow yogis into that place of peace and refuge on their mats. Peace and blessings and look forward to seeing you!
Michelle has always been interested in fitness. She was a runner throughout high school and was part of the track team. She continued onto college and graduated with an associates degree in health and fitness. Four years ago Michelle fell very ill and was out of work for almost a year. This is when she found yoga. She needed some sort of exercise in her life, so she started with just ten minutes a day. Once she got better she took her first official class. She chose the hardest class available! She instantly loved it and knew this was her passion and calling. Immediately, she began taking the steps to become a teacher at her hometown studio in Binghamton. She completed level one and level two assistant workshops at the studio,and began assisting in classes regularly. Soon she went on to Baptiste level one teacher training in Sedona Arizona. After coteaching for 4 months she earned her spot as a teacher. Michelle teaches multiple classes a week in Binghamton such as all levels hot and power hours. She is very excited to teach here at blackbird. She is AED/CPR certified and plans to attend level two in Sedona to complete her 200hour certification. Michelle enjoys cooking and baking vegan food! She also spends her time painting, exercising, hiking, relaxing by the ocean and loves being outdoors. In Michelle's classes you will get a full body workout. Create proper alignment and use your breath to flow through each pose!
Yoga & Pilates Instructor
Leslie enjoys her private practice Embody Massage and Pilates of 15 years at 522 West State St in downtown Ithaca, where she incorporates a variety of massage techniques and teaches private pilates sessions. She is always interested in pursuing new avenues in her healing practice including Trager training, Acupressure, Hot Stone Therapy and constantly continuing her education and growth as a practitioner. Upon using pilates for her own wellness and healing program, and recommending this training to her clients, she decided to pursue the pilates training with PACNY graduating the 750 hour program and receiving her PATTI certification. She chose the contemporary training because of it’s focus on anatomical and postural guidelines, and the incorporation of physical therapy techniques and sports rehab was complimentary to her massage training. Leslie has superior knowledge of the body from her massage practice which extends to her pilates practice. With an eye and understanding of the muscular and skeletal systems of the body, she is able to understand and create an effective program for balancing, strengthening, and toning each individual’s body. She uses her combined knowledge to help clients create body awareness. She uses this Holistic approach to pilates therapy looking at it from many angles to help create understanding and balance for each client. Leslie teaches a well balanced style of pilates offering classes that are a combination of fitness, technical elements, and creative. “Educating my clients is very important to me. I feel you get a better workout when you understand why you’re doing a specific exercise. In my class you’ll learn about your body and have a great workout. My goal is to teach ina way that my students will take pilates into their daily lives. The satisfaction of helping others is something I love about my work.” Leslie is a NYS licensed massage therapist since 2001, certified Aromatherapist , has practiced many styles of yoga for 20+ years. She has been teaching private and group pilates since 2008 and is always researching and learning to further her education and understanding. Other trainings includes Trager bodywork,Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage, Hot Stone Therapy, Orthopedic core pelvic stabilization massage.
Lily spent much of formative fitness years in a freezer training as a competitive figure skater with ballet, pilates, and conditioning on the side. In college, she spent a year rowing on the Yale women’s crew team, picked up running, and became more serious about pilates and dance. Lily first tried barre in New Haven at Sarah Aldrich pilates with Ithaca area-native Torrie Hanley and was thrilled to find a studio with barre classes in when she moved to Ithaca for grad school. After three years of endorphin addiction at Blackbird, she decided to share her love of barre with others by becoming an instructor under Tory Jenis’s training. Lily’s favorite thing about barre is that while it gets easier, it never gets easy because there are always new ways to further challenge yourself. Outside of the studio, Lily is a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell. She also dances at Ballet Center of Ithaca, teaches PE figure skating, and is a member of the club figure skating team at Cornell. When not exercising or conducting research, Lily enjoys renovating her house, gardening, baking, cuddling with dogs, and spending time with family.
Tess first sought out barre at Blackbird studio as a tool for keeping healthy amid the rigors of academia and as a complement to her studies in dance. She was excited to find that the exercise not only improved alignment and strength, but also increased a sense of balance and reduced stress.
After years enjoying classes and the community at Blackbird, Tess was thrilled to be able to train under Tory Jenis to become a barre instructor. She loves teaching her students at Cornell University subjects of social science, and she was delighted to expand her teaching experiences to include those related to body awareness and fitness.
Some of Tess' research and teaching emphases as a PhD candidate include the politics of environmental health and community development. The nature of Tess' work means that she often encounters individuals who struggle with a lack of physical and emotional welfare. Consequently, she has a strong interest in the ability of exercise, dance, and body-centered movement to encourage healing and positive growth. Tess is grateful for Tory and the other teachers at Blackbird bringing her in to the BB family. She feels fortunate to have Blackbird to help her continuously find new ways to connect with her own body and to connect with people who are also interested in greater well-being.
Hannah remembers her very first yoga class vividly. At a young and influential age, she was unaware then that she had just landed in a moment that from there on would be changing her life. She also stepped into the guidance of what would be one of her greatest teachers, Magdalena. With a language barrier, Hannah learned more fluency in language of the body. Leaving a lot unspoken made her new experience in body and mind even more mysterious and intriguing. After practicing for more than 10 years, she completed her 200hr at Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica for Power Vinyasa and Self Awakening Yoga. That feels like just the tip of the ice berg! Hannah’s approach to teaching (and most things) is Interdisciplinary. A class of hers may incorporate elements from Vinyasa, Self Awakening, Baptiste, Kundalini, Pilates, Ayurveda, and Yin. She looks forward to continuing her education in all of the above and more. Her goal is to offer an all levels class with guidance encouraging the freedom to tailor it to your own practice.
Personally, she enjoys a fiery practice that makes her feel alive with a pumping heart and an exhilarating breathe. When she isn’t teaching, she’s rollin with Ruby her dog. Probably on her own mat! 😉 Next, running in the woods, in the garden, on her bike, or in the lake. She loves the Finger Lakes and lives much her life through celebration of all this region has to offer.
Kate first took yoga as a college class to fulfill a requirement for graduation. She loved it, but didn’t commit to a regular practice until several years later when she relocated to New York City and needed moving meditation to find calm in the midst of a hectic life. As a child and teenager, she played sports and danced, but never felt particularly athletic or physically graceful. Yoga changed that, which is why she believes in its power to help people feel more at home in their own bodies. In 2015, she completed Yoga to the People’s 200-hour teacher training, which is certified by Yoga Alliance. Her classes are designed to be challenging to yoga veterans and accessible to newcomers. She focuses on the idea of yoga as a binding together –breath linked with movement, mind and body linked together in the present moment.
Outside of the yoga studio, Kate is an English teacher and a poet whose work has appeared in American Chordata, Octopus, The Gettysburg Review, and other journals. She moved to Ithaca in October of 2016, and she is deeply grateful to the Blackbird community for making her feel at home here.
Jenni Cunningham Ryan
Known for her focus on alignment in a fun but vigorous way, Jenni has become one of Ithaca's revered teachers for spiritual seekers and fitness enthusiasts alike. Bringing a strong awareness of the Ashtanga fundamentals into her classes, Jenni teaches power styles of yoga to all levels, ages, and abilities in a balanced way. Her classes are based on the Ashtanga system, but with a strong sense of creativity that allows the practitioner to participate to his or her ability. With an emphasis on core engagement ("A strong core is a strong body is a strong mind"), her classes are designed to rinse the whole body from head to toe. Students will be guided to connect with their sense of strength and flexibility in a safe and practical manner, each time they step foot on the mat.