Who teaches the program at In Balance Yoga Studio?

Kunga Faculty

Our Yoga Teacher Trainings are led by Yoga Leaders from our dynamic teaching faculty. Experienced guests lead portions of our programs so that the students benefit from a wide variety of techniques, approaches, and skill sets.

Nicole Fitzwater LaFon, ERYT500, YACEP

Nicole is a studio owner, yoga teacher, yoga teacher training (YTT) faculty leader for both 200 HR and 300 HR programs, and a retreat leader. Her studio, In Balance Yoga located in Blacksburg, Virginia is a service entrepreneurship business giving back to three non-profits each quarter: Homes of Hope Orphanage in India, Farm Sanctuary, and Yoga Village. Nicole has completed three 500hr Certifications with Sri Dharma Mittra in NYC, Jimmy Barkan in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Barkan Method of Hot Yoga) and the Kunga Yoga School (Service Based / Accessible Yoga) in Wilmington, NC with Kristin Cooper-Gulak. Nicole has studied Ayurveda, Yoga for Seniors or Healthy Aging, Kids, Pre/Postnatal, Service Leadership, Trauma Sensitive Populations, Yoga for Cancer, Gentle & Meditation, Vinyasa, Power Flow, Hot Yoga Barkan Method, Detox, Business of Yoga, Restorative, Yin, and Aerial. She is certified in First, Second and Advanced Degree Reiki Master and Reiki for Animals as well as Thai Yoga Bodywork.  She is certified in Energy Medicine Yoga with Donna Eden and Lauren Walker and is currently completing her Level 1 Fundamentals with Eden Energy Medicine (EEM).

Before having her dream job and becoming the Owner of In Balance Yoga, Nicole worked in development with both Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia for 5 years, 7 years in sports marketing as Marketing Manager with CBS Sports (University of Maryland, Virginia, LSU, Utah and corporate) and advertising with BBDO New York on the Gillette account. Nicole loves to share movement and breath and to meet each student where they are on their mat. Yoga helped her discover self-love and self-care and she hopes to cultivate a community of service at In Balance Yoga to impact those in need in the area and beyond.

Nicole loves to practice with as many teachers in as many places as possible.  Things that are important to her:  family, love, light, unconditional love, patience, compassion, simplicity,  always a student, life-long learning, keep moving or flowing, service, connection and community!

Noelle Whittington, ERYT500, YACEP

Adjunct Faculty Noelle Whittington, ERYT500 + YACEP, believes in the power of connection as the foundation of Yoga- Connection to the breath, the body, and the mind leads to union with our authentic Self. Noelle is a dedicated and passionate Yoga instructor, musician, Bhakti Yoga student, Coach, Thai Yoga practitioner, and Senior Trainer of the Kunga Yoga School offering 200 and 300 hour Yoga teacher training programs. Noelle began teaching full-time in 2006 following completion of the Interdisciplinary 200 hour teacher training program at Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica, and under the guidance of Ashley Ludman in Anusara Yoga. Later, Noelle completed a 350-hour advanced apprenticeship certification with Kristin Cooper-Gulak in Kunga Yoga, Fluid Power Yoga with Shiva Rea, Thai Yoga with the Lek Chaiya School in Chiang Mai Thailand and Jill Burynski of Living Sabai, Pilates Mat and Reformer with Power Pilates and Body and Soul Studios, Ayurveda with Hilary Garivaltis, Anatomy of Yoga with Marlysa Sullivan, Yoga for Trauma and PTSD with David Emerson, Bhakti Yoga with Bill Mahony, Sanskrit with Richard Rosen, Pre and Post Natal Yoga with Heather Till, and Hands on Assisting , Service and Social Activism, Senior and Restorative Yoga, Kunga Vinyasa, and 5Elements Flow Yoga with Kristin Cooper-Gulak. With the Kunga Yoga School since its inception, Noelle has been leading the Kunga Yoga Lifestyle Teacher Training programs since 2012. Her favorite way to connect deeply is by leading regional and International retreats. Since 2007, she has facilitated many journeys to Belize, Costa Rica, India, and Jamaica- most notably the Kunga Journeys Service Retreat to India with Wilmington Yoga Center, and Flow Town Yoga. Noelle’s dynamic, fluid, and breath-centered style of teaching draws upon many creative modalities, including 15 years of classical dance training. She incorporates movement, meditation, mantra, and philosophy into her offerings because she fully believes in being curious about the nature of the Universe, and the healing power of connecting ourselves with our Source. Noelle has been honored to serve as an ambassador for Lululemon and Manduka. For more information about Noelle, please visit her online: https://linktr.ee/narayanishakti .

Jess Bichler, ERYT500

Jess Bichler has a rich yogic history, steeped in a variety of trainings and lineages, bringing a wealth of knowledge to her classes, workshops and teacher trainings. Through more than 20 years of teaching Jess has honed her ability to connect with students in a supportive and motivational way to help them uncover the joy and benefits of yoga and establish a commitment to their practice.

Jess came to yoga in her teens, recognizing it as a path towards staying active and healthy throughout every stage of life and began teaching in 2001. She has had the opportunity to study myriad yoga styles, particularly the prominent lines of Iyengar, Ashtanga and Anusara – each complimenting her attention to alignment and core engagement gained as a gymnast – as well as therapeutic and kids yoga. Her formal education and certifications were earned at the Morningside School of Yoga in upstate New York, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts, and most recently 200 and 500 hour certifications from the Wilmington Yoga Center. Jess holds a MA in Visual and Cultural Anthropology and views yoga through this lens as an opportunity to understand one another with more depth and compassion. Her influential teachers include Michael Smith, Larry Hobbs, Rodney Yee, Stacey Millner-Collins, Cheryl Crawford, Kristin Cooper and Donna Gardner. Jessica has led local and international yoga retreats, 200 and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings, and specialized workshops on a variety of topics. She loves pulling from her diverse background to offer practices in response to the specific needs and abilities of her students including everything from gentle and chair yoga, to kids yoga, to advanced practices focusing on arm balances and inversions. She particularly enjoys introducing new students to the practice and supporting yoga teachers to refine and deepen their ability to make yoga fun, accessible, and profound. Her goal is to lovingly support students down the path of living a yogic lifestyle in all aspects.

of living a yogic lifestyle in all aspects.

Jessica Hartmann, PT + RYT500

Jessica Hartmann is a full time Physical Therapist and Kunga Yoga Teaching Specialist on faculty with the Kunga Yoga School. She is a graduate of Duquesne University with a Masters Degree in Physical Therapy, and has over ten years of experience as a manual therapist in a variety of clinics.

Jessica is also a graduate of the Kunga Yoga Teacher Training with Kristin Cooper and Katie Serino and is currently completing her Kunga Yoga 500 Hour certification. She has completed trainings in Professional Yoga Therapy, Kunga 5Elements, and Kunga Power Vinyasa. Jessica has taught therapeutic yoga in clinical settings for over three years, and is currently working on completing her Professional yoga Therapy
Certification in order to continue combining her career with her passion for yoga.

Jessica is a firm believer that yoga can truly be used as medicine. She is extremely excited to see yoga continually being recognized by medical communities both as a preventative measure as well as a treatment tool. She believes yoga is fantastic both for injury prevention and relief, and would like to continue educating others about the human body and it’s beauty in our yoga practice. Jessica enjoys teaching group classes and individual sessions focused on the principles of anatomy and biomechanics.

Lisa Pelanne, MS, E-RYT500, YACEP 

Lisa is grateful to share wellness practices including yoga, meditation, dance, health education, and Thai Yoga bodywork to all populations. She is passionate about teaching accessible, adaptive, and inclusive well-being practices that support each practitioner’s unique journey  by focusing on acceptance, gratitude, grace, and compassion.

Lisa is a Faculty Yoga Teacher Trainer with the Kunga Yoga School at In Balance Yoga in Blacksburg, Virginia leading 200 and 300-hour Yoga Teacher Trainings. She also leads workshops in Yin Yoga and Meditation.  She completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with Nicole Lafon in 2016 at In Balance Yoga in Blacksburg, Virginia and her 300-hour Kunga Yoga Service Leadership Yoga Teacher Training with Kunga faculty at the Wilmington Yoga Center in North Carolina in 2018.

A passionate student, she studies widely across disciplines to inform her worldview and teaching philosophy. She is grateful to her many teachers including Marion Mease, Nicole Lafon, Lynn Theodose, Noelle Whittington, and Kristen Cooper-Gulak. She is grateful to have studied with:

  • Yin Yoga with Richard Gartner (2016), with Cindy Lunsford (2016), and with Bernie Clark (2018)
  • Acupoint Tapping with Dr. Peter Borten (2021)
  • Barkan Method Hot Yoga with Nicole Lafon (2016)
  • Vinyasa/Power Yoga:
    • NuPowerYoga with Cindy Lunsford (2017)
    • 5Elements Vinyasa Flow with Noelle Whittington (2017)
    • Detox Vinyasa Yoga with Kristin Cooper-Gulak (2018)
    • Vinyasa and Power Flow with Noelle Whittington (2018)
  • Restorative Yoga with Colleen Dwyer (2016), with Noelle Whittington (2017)
  • Gentle Yoga and Meditation with Jessica Bichler (2018)
  • Special Populations:
    • Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga with Gracia Gimse McKinley (2017), and with Heather Metzler (2017)
    • Kids Yoga with Jessica Bichler (2018)
    • Senior Yoga with Jamie Annette (2018)
    • Yoga Service Leadership: Yoga for PTSD & Special Populations with Kristin Cooper-Gulak (2018)
    • Trauma Master Series with Ruth Buczynski, The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (2018)
    • The Yoga Way: Toward Psychological Health & Wellbeing with Holle Black  (2018)
    • Christina Phipps Foundation Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers with Beth Daugherty  (2019)
  • Hands-on Assisting with Noelle Whittington  (2017)
  • Anatomy of Yoga with Jessica Hartmann  (2017)
  • Business of Yoga with Jessica Bichler (2017)
  • Elements of Dance with Pat Cohen, National Dance Education Organization  (2017)
  • Thai Yoga with Fransisco Bermudez-Morales (2019)
  • Progressing Ballet Technique with Megan Berlint-Nicko  (2020)
  • Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism with Kristine Weber and Kiesha Battles (2020)
  • The Yoga and Neuroscience Connection with Kristine Weber (2021)
  • The Wisdom of Ayurveda with Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya (2021)

Lisa also studies classical ballet and other modalities of dance. She teaches accessible, adaptable, and inclusive dance classes to all ages, Progressing Ballet Technique classes to all levels, as well as her own brand of ballet barre fitness.. She believes dance and creative movement is for all bodies and infuses the elements of strength, balance, flexibility, breath, humor, love, and a deep knowledge of human anatomy and physiology into her classes.

Lisa earned her BS in Biology from The College of William and Mary in 1996 and her MS in Immunology and Microbiology from Virginia Tech in 2002. She has research and teaching experience in the fields of immunotoxicology, human anatomy and physiology, medical diagnostics, food science, and served as the research oenologist and winemaker in the Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology. Her research and education experiences in health and food sciences resulted in a  passion for exploring healthy, joyful lifestyle choices that support each practitioner on their unique journey through public and private classes, workshops, Yoga Teacher Trainings, and individual mentoring.

Aaron Richards, Kunga Yoga School 200 HR Teacher Training Apprentice to be Kunga Faculty & Instructor, RYT200

Aaron began his yoga journey in 2013. With a background in athletics and competitive sports, Aaron took his skills as a coach and athlete to the mat in order to bring yoga to as many populations as possible. Aaron works to teach that all people are able to find a relationship with their body and mind.

Aaron is RYT200 certified with Yoga Alliance through the Kunga Yoga School. Kunga yoga teaches service, ahimsa (non-violence), and compassion for all beings. Aaron studied under Nicole Boyle, Kristen Cooper-Gulak, and Lisa Pelanne. In 2019, Aaron studied with Cindy Lunsford to become certified in the Barkan Method. Currently, Aaron participates in the Kunga 300 HR Program, graduating to 500 HR in December 2019.

As a public school teacher, Aaron strives to bring movement and mindfulness into his classroom. He has worked with young people since 2011, and he sees teaching youth to be confident, capable members of their community is the surest path to establishing the good life for all. With yoga, Aaron encourages mindful breathing, communication, and regular breaks for movement during instruction.

Before yoga, Aaron’s primary focus was long-distance running. When he discovered yoga, much of that focus was redirected towards learning asana practice and incorporating the other limbs into his life. Being a runner, Aaron knows well the demands that athletes put on their bodies. Yoga created the balanced approach to athletics that Aaron now encourages his students to integrate.

Aaron lives in the rural surroundings of Blacksburg, VA with his wife and two dogs.

Erin Nuckols, Kunga Yoga School 200 HR Teacher Training Apprentice to be Kunga Faculty, RYT200

Erin Nuckols started her Yogic journey as a teenager with her mom. She began learning and practicing in earnest in 2010, studying Zen Buddhism, Yoga Anatomy, and Asian history. In 2015, Erin created space to dedicate time for a 200hr. Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). She became Yoga Alliance-certified with the ShambhavaYOGA Center at Om Ananda Studio in Colorado. Her primary teachers are Sarada and Shivaji Erickson with the support of Aramati Casper. In 2016, Erin studied in Pune, India under the tutelage of Rewati Salelkar, a B.K.S. Iyengar practitioner and teacher. Erin began a 300hr. YTT at In Balance Yoga through the Kunga School of Yoga created by Kristen Cooper-Gulak. She is currently apprenticing to become an instructor with the Kunga School for 200hr. trainees. Her primary teachers include Nicole Boyle, Lisa Pelanne, Noelle Whittington, and Ange Stopperan.

Erin is certified in Kunga 5Elements Flow and Ayurveda and Yogic Lifestyles. She believes deeply in the philosophy of “in Yoga, as in life.” She teaches a non-dogmatic style in her classes, focusing on alignment and personal growth as determined by each student as an individual. The Eight Limbs provide the foundation for Erin’s teaching. Erin is excited to create space with students to bring growth, change, and peace into their lives. Erin specializes in Yoga Foundations, Restorative, Seniors, and Women’s Health yoga. She is available for private yoga instruction. Erin’s current teaching schedule is listed at www.lunarelm.com