March 24, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 36°F


Alumna focuses on low-fee yoga

Yoga can be an extremely expensive practice, but Nicole Stumpf ’08 recently found a solution to ease the costs.

Nicole Stumpf ’08 poses in the Warrior II position at Sunrise Yoga Studio. Stumpf rents the space and teaches her own Kripalu yoga class weekly. Rachel Orlow/The Ithacan

Stumpf teaches a class called “Kripalu Yoga with Nicole.” She rents out the space from Sunrise Yoga studio and runs her class once a week. What differentiates Stumpf’s class from the others run at Sunrise is the cost. She runs her classes on a pay-what-you-can system — she sets a $15 class fee, but students can pay more or a little less depending on what other costs he or she is dealing with that week.

“I don’t want to have to turn potential students away — no one should have to miss out on the experience that is yoga,” Stumpf said.

Lauren Katz, a local resident of Ithaca and student of Stumpf’s, said paying whatever she can afford for each yoga class is convenient.

“The pay-what-you-can system is amazing,” she said. “You don’t have to feel guilt about investing in yourself. Life happens and things come up, but with this system it really feels like Nicole still wants you in the room.”

Kripalu yoga, a type of Hatha yoga, focuses specifically on breathing exercises, different poses and taking what is learned in the studio and transitioning that to everyday life. Stumpf’s classes of Kripalu emphasize the strength of the core and proper alignment of the body.

Kripalu yoga allows the body to align properly in poses and reduces the risk of injury, while allowing students to focus on themselves, both emotionally and physically.

When she isn’t teaching yoga, Stumpf works as an assistant recycling specialist at Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division. She said she is not in the business for her own financial gain.

“I’m not teaching yoga for the money,” she said. “I don’t want someone to miss out on the experience because they’re financially incapable. Yoga can truly change your life.”

Stumpf started taking yoga classes when she was 15 at the suggestion of her mother. A studio had opened up in her New Jersey hometown, and she took a class there once a week. When she came to Ithaca College as an environmental studies major, she found Sunrise Yoga Studio on Cayuga Street and began taking classes there from instructor Steven Valloney. Stumpf said her college yoga years were amazing relaxation periods after long school days.

“It was an hour and a half break for me from the stress of classes and schoolwork,” she said. “I was able to get out of my head and more into my body.”

After graduation, Stumpf decided to take a job in Ithaca and continued to take classes at Sunrise, she said. Valloney approached her last summer and asked her if she would consider teaching a class or two every week.

“I had never really considered it, but when he asked me, I immediately said yes,” she said. “I knew it was something I had to do.”

Stumpf took a teacher training course at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts, the largest facility in North America for holistic health training. When she came back, she started her class.

Katz said what she enjoys about Stumpf’s class is her cheerful attitude, her focus on strengthening the body at all levels and, of course, her pay-what-you-can system. She said Stumpf’s classes are well-rounded and are not just for advanced yoga students.

“There’s a continuum in the room when you look around,” Katz said. “Nicole accepts an array of levels with such a glow that it’s hard not to come back.”

Valloney, one of the two main instructors at Sunrise, said Stumpf’s biggest strength as a yoga instructor is her personality.

“Yoga is challenging to teach with an upbeat attitude because you can’t push someone into something they’re not ready to do,” Valloney said. “Nicole combines yoga and fun with ease — as it should be.”

Ilana Berman, another one of Stumpf’s students, said Stumpf is approachable because she exudes energy and joy in her practice.

“You can tell she really loves yoga, and she wants to share the happiness and good feelings with everyone she teaches,” she said.

Attendance currently ranges from three to 10 people at each class. Stumpf is working to reach out to the community to encourage more people to attend.

“My main motivation behind wanting to teach yoga, at this moment, is that I want people to enjoy being alive,” she said. “It’s a miracle, really, and when you begin to tap in to your inner potential to experience bliss just by breathing and moving.”

If You Go

“Kripalu Yoga with Nicole”

When: 2 p.m. Sundays

Where: Sunrise Yoga Studio

How much: $15 suggested