Yoga Teacher and Recipe Developer Julia Bembenek Wants you to Listen to Your Body

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.

Photo by Michael P. Daley

Julia is the creator of the yoga podcast and community WINDOW and a recipe developer and cook committed to sustainable, seasonal eating. She also writes for pleasure and money.

Where are you currently sheltering in place?

I am at my apartment in Highland Park, Los Angeles, where I live with my boyfriend Sterling Bartlett, our dog Clever, and our cat Mack.

What does your face mask look like?

Before it got hot I was finally utilizing my collection of vintage scarves to their fullest potential, but now I have some kind of whatever-looking over the ear masks that are more breathable.

Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment?

I’m an early riser, so I typically spend an hour in the morning sipping tea and doing some morning pages, then a little time taking care of the vegetable garden/mini-farm that I’ve started in our backyard before some breakfast. Then some work (on my podcast WINDOW or my food project Cichetti Una) and yoga/hiking fills out the day. My boyfriend and I instituted a dance happy hour a few times a week early on, and these little bursts of joyful energy have been a saving grace.

“Happy hour dance party”

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time?

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Marjory Sweet’s cookbook Farm Lunch, Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quincunx, Nora Brank Yoga, John Cassavetes’ Gloria, Spaceship Earth, Matthew Clark’s Sunday afternoon IG Live yoga classes with themes like “Sade” and “Music for Plants,” Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Secret of the Golden Flower.

Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it?

I started my podcast WINDOW! Each weekly hour-long episode contains a custom yoga sequence, and our Patreon supporters get a lot of fun extras: truly bangin’ playlists, meditations, reading/listening/viewing recommendations, and more coming soon. My goal is to help people develop their own home practice by empowering them to listen to themselves and develop their own unique body intelligence outside of comparison to others.

For my food project Cichetti Una, I’m having fun developing a pasta-focused cookbook. “Developing” = eating lots of pasta.

And as always, there are stories and ideas I’m picking away at. Excited to have my short story “Stolen Peaches” be published soon in a collection from First To Knock.

Have you taken up any new hobbies?

I’m revisiting The Artist’s Way, which is really enlightening and helpful. The practices and exercises helped me develop WINDOW and are really coming in handy as I develop the brand and think about how I want my personal and professional future to look.

Also leash-training our cat Mack to be an outdoor adventurer. He loves rolling around in the dirt and chasing lizards.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar?

Having time to really cook exactly what’s tickling my fancy is one of my biggest silver linings of this whole situation, so there’s a lot to choose from. Some recent standouts: mint gelato, ajo blanco, strawberry rhubarb pie, and homemade angel hair pasta with spigarello, agretti, and spicy sardines.

What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it?

I was having a blue day where nothing was feeling right, so I took myself on a walk around the little windy streets of our neighborhood. There were so many flowers blooming at every turn! It reminded me of all the energy and action in the universe that is beautiful and that has nothing to do with our stupid human bullshit, which made me feel a lot better. So I just like to remind myself that my phone kind of sucks compared to the wonder of the natural world.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?

I’m currently waiting on a shorts and kimono kit I ordered from Etsy after being inspired by a two-year old’s Instagram fit. Pretty hyped for that!

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?

Really resonating with Clarice Lispector’s short stories, as always. They just SO beautifully precisely articulate the existential conundrums of human, and specifically female, existence.

Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quincunx is the perfect kind of spooky, kind of sexy, kind of smart series of books for long hot afternoons with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

And this survey of Desert Transcendentalist painter Agnes Pelton is gorgeous and kind of making up for not being able to see the show or her work at the Whitney that was supposed to be happening.

Any unexpectedly memorable moments of quar so far?

My boyfriend and I took a hike to some waterfalls in the Angeles National Forest. It was a magical day, so many wildflowers, the smell of wild sage filling the air, and a picnic of delicious sandwiches from our local favorite Dune with our toes in the water of a cool cool creek.

Follow Julia’s recipe development at @cichetti.una; for yoga, follow @window_within.