Riccardo Bonparola is our student of the month for June.
Riccardo and his wife Manuela are regulars in our Sunday bilingual class, which is fitting since they each speak multiple languages. An Italian who grew up in Brazil, Riccardo finds the friendly, family-oriented culture of Inwood to be a great fit. He sees Bread and Yoga as an extension of the community.
Q: How long have you been coming to Bread and Yoga?
Q: Had you ever done yoga before coming here?
Yes, a few times through a friend of mine. He has practiced yoga for a long time and he introduced me to yoga like ten years ago. He’s a searching kind of person so we always talk not only about yoga but a lot of things regarding spiritual (matters). He got a bunch of people together and he taught what he knew about yoga.
Q: What did you think?
It was cool, but I would say I wasn’t in the mood to continue at that time.
Q: That was 10 years ago. So between 2007 and 2014 you weren’t doing much yoga?
Not at all.
Q: What made you decide to try it again?
When I was getting to my forties I thought, up to now, my body is good and I’m ok. After that, I need to do something to keep from getting old. [I also wanted] it to be something I liked because I don’t like the gym. I went many, many times for one month or two and then I would stop and then start again and then stop.
Q: The gym wasn’t for you?
No. It’s too much competition. I want something that I can do what I want, the way that I want with no competition.
Q: Do you remember which was the first class you took at Bread and Yoga?
It was the same one that I do now with Judi.
Q: Was that by chance or did you choose that class specifically?
It was because it was bilingual and it was by donation.
Q: What was your impression after that first class?
It was very good. I stayed away for almost two weeks before coming again because I was all broken.
Yes. Sore. I couldn’t move at least for one week. The thing is, I was not doing anything [active] for a long, long time. So the first time you do something again of course you’re going to come out broken.
But it gets better. I had had some pain here [in my back], like sciatica and it helped things a lot doing yoga. You start to feel more excited to try things. You feel more confident. I felt much more flexible. For a while at least, I was like a kid.
Q: In yoga class?
Yes and also outside yoga. I work at an import and export company. It’s a small company so I have to do almost everything: receiving merchandise, delivering merchandise, selling, taking care of paperwork and coordinating everything. Sometimes I have to lift something heavy. I have to climb to get something from a shelf way up and [I noticed] I was doing all this without any pain; doing things more easily.
Q: So physically it had a big effect on you. Is that why you have stayed with Judi’s class?
Yes and I like the way she teaches. She’s very kind and she pays attention to details. With her it’s not only about the physical things. It’s about the whole aspect of yoga. She makes people, especially older students, feel special.
Q: What do you mean by the “whole aspect of yoga?”
It’s because she cares about reading something inspirational at the beginning of each class. Judi often asks to set an intention for the practice and I like that. And when she has the opportunity she promotes other aspects of yoga, including meditation.
Q: You said you chose the class because it was bilingual. Where did you grow up?
In Brazil. I speak Portuguese and Italian and so in between all of them I can understand the class in Spanish.
Q: Is your wife Manuela also from Brazil?
No, we met here in the U.S. She’s from Italy, from Naples. I’m from Italy as well, but my family moved to Brazil when I was three years old.
Q: You two often come to yoga class here together. What is that like?
It’s nice. Sometimes [in class] it’s hard to get the right pose or even if you get the right pose staying there is even harder. After we leave the class, we go ‘Oh my God one second more in that position now I’m all in pain” We tease each other. We always laugh and joke all the time.
Q: You moved from New Jersey to New York a couple of years ago. What do you think of the neighborhood?
Sometimes it’s a little noisy, but personally, I love it. I love when they do barbecue on the sidewalk or when everybody gets together and stays all night. It’s very similar to Brazilian culture and the Southern Italy culture as well. It’s very friendly. It’s all about family. I love seeing all the kids around. Usually you don’t see that in New York.
I also love all the parks that we have here. There are big parks everywhere you go, like The Cloisters, which is something very special.
Q: You said earlier that you feel like Bread and Yoga is a part of the community. How do you see that?
It’s because always we see they are doing something for the community to bring people [in] or to help people or to give some quality of life for them, like sometimes I go to yoga class outside in the park. They care about the community around here.
Q: You started yoga when you turned 40. Some people think, “I’m too old to start yoga. It’s only for people in their twenties.”
Yes, but I don’t have that thinking. You have to get old doing some kind of exercise in my point of view. Of course you’re going to get old just the same, but you can get old better.
Q: What advice would you give to people who think, “Yoga is not for me?”
I tell everybody you have to go and try because it’s good. People always say to me, ‘Oh, yoga, it’s relaxing.’ I don’t believe this. Forty-five minutes here and I sweat the whole time. So for people who tell me “It’s too relaxing. You don’t do exercise.” I say, “Oh no you do exercise.” Maybe it’s not cardio, but you’re doing exercise. You tone your muscles and you get flexible. You walk straighter. Your posture is better.
Q: Why did you change your mind about yoga?
I think in life we all have phases. When I was younger than my 40s, I had a lot of energy and flexibility. Whatever you do with your body it’s going to come back. But you have to start thinking [about life] after a certain age. Of course as you grow older, you also change your view of life. You keep growing. You keep adapting and learning new things. It’s a part of life.