Sasha Swerdloff is a Certified Ayurvedic Consultant and blogger at Tending the Table, where she shares plant-based recipes and writes about sustainability, health, and wellness. We love Sasha’s thoughtful approach to cooking, breathtaking photography, and Ayurvedic advice.
In this interview, Sasha tells us about her morning, bedtime and exercise routines, as well as self-care as a type of non-violence, addressing the root cause of health-related imbalances, the breathing technique she uses during stressful times, skincare, nourishment, yoga, and much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
Routine is super important for me. Without it I tend to feel scattered, flustered and irritable. I think this has a lot to do with my constitution. I know that I tend to struggle with uncertainty so having a routine makes me feel a little more in control and a little less terrified.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
I usually wake up around 7am, do my “morning stuff” (scrape my tongue, do neti, wash my face etc.) then try to drink a big mug of hot lemon water. I like to listen to NPR and snuggle on the couch with my pups while I drink my morning matcha latte. Then I do yoga before making breakfast.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I’ve struggled with insomnia a fair amount but paying attention to my stress level and having a solid bedtime routine has helped a lot. A hot bath and self massage with plenty of herbal oil especially on my head works wonders. I also really love sipping on some warm almond milk with spices before bed.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – Sautéed greens, a fried egg from the chicken ladies in the backyard, and sourdough toast.
Lunch – Soup or a big bowl of roasted veggies with some sort of cooked grain, some protein, and a half an avocado.
Snack – Apple and almond butter
Dinner – Soup, roasted veggies, salads, veggie tacos with beans, roasted sweet potato, cabbage slaw and avocado.
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I’ve never been able to drink coffee or black tea without getting super jittery but it took me years to finally listen to what my body was telling me. Instead of coffee I drink a matcha latte with almond milk and raw honey every morning.
— Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, how do you keep it in check?
Not having sweet stuff around is the only way to stop me from eating a whole bar of chocolate or way too many cookies.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I’m not a fan of taking lots of herbs or supplements for long periods of time. It’s easy to take a pill but it’s a lot harder to address the root cause of an issue and make diet and lifestyle changes to address that imbalance. In the long term though, addressing the root cause through diet and lifestyle is a whole lot more affordable and leads to long term results. I do take Ashwagandha and Vit D regularly to support my nervous system and to keep me sane through the dark winters here in Seattle.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I try to practice at least an hour of yoga daily. I also walk a fair amount and jog every once in a while. In the winter I cross country ski as much as I can. I’ve noticed that the forms of exercise I enjoy most incorporate some sort of rhythmic, repetitive motion which I find to be super calming and meditative. Also, any time I can get outside I’m happy.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
Both. There are days when I don’t exercise or get outside but I try to not beat myself up about it. It’s too easy to get into a pattern of negativity and it’s much more beneficial long term to practice having compassion for yourself. The things that motivate me to get on my mat each day are my physical and mental health, someone else (my husband) holding me accountable, and the respect and admiration I have for my yoga teacher and the Ashtanga lineage.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
Confidence is beautiful to me. I feel more beautiful when I stand up straight and hold my head high. I’m slowly learning that it’s less about how I look and more about how I feel.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
My skin has always been sensitive and problematic and I’ve always had negative body image issues associated with it. I’m finally starting to get a handle on it by going off of hormonal birth control and eliminating sugar and dairy. I also have a pretty strict routine that helps keep my skin free from breakouts. In the morning I wash my face with warm water and moisturize with January Labs Revitalizing Day Cream or Osmia Organics Purely Simple Face Cream. In the evening I cleanse and exfoliate with Beauty Counter’s Charcoal Cleansing Bar and the Clarisonic skin brush then moisturize with grapeseed oil and Living Libations Dew Dab which helps prevent breakouts and combat hyper pigmentation. In the summer I spritz my face with rose water to help me cool down.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
I started taking a zinc supplement a few months ago for my skin and it has helped a ton. Overall though, I notice that cutting out sugar and dairy from my diet makes the biggest difference.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
Like I said before, for me, diet makes a huge difference. But I also love my Clarisonic skin brush. It seems like a weird gadget but it has made all the difference for me.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
Making sure not to get too over stimulated or overcommitted helps me stay grounded but if I do get spun out I practice Nadi shodhana breathing and take some Anxiety Soother to take the edge off. I also like to do Yoga Nidra. Getting some fresh air and planting my feet on the ground or pulling out the watercolors always helps too.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
I usually mega dose on Echinacea and Sambu Guard then take a hot bath and bundle up. I also try to slow down since for me, colds are often the result of stress. If I slow down my body can usually heal itself.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
I like to think about yoga philosophy and the eight limbs. The first limb is yama. The yamas are a set of five precepts that help us interact with the world in an ethical manner. The first yama is ahimsa or non-violence. This means non-violence towards all living things, including ourselves, in thoughts, words and actions. For me self-care is a type of non-violence towards my physical and mental being.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
I take a break from whatever it is that I’m struggling with and do something else to clear my mind.
— What was your path to studying Ayurveda and yoga and how do you incorporate that knowledge into your everyday?
I first learned about Ayurveda from my yoga teacher, Christine Hoar. I had been practicing yoga with her for a year or so and was struggling with some health problems so decided to do an Ayurvedic consultation with her to see what she could recommend. Her simple diet and lifestyle recommendations completely changed things for me. I felt like all of a sudden, all of the issues I had struggled with throughout my life made sense and fit into a bigger picture of who I am. I continued studying Ayurveda with Christine and then after college completed an Ayurvedic Certification program and Kripalu. For me, Ayurveda provides a framework from which to view the world and my place in it. I’m constantly thinking about the qualities of the foods I eat and the things I do or experience from an Ayurvedic perspective. Ayurveda helps me understand and take control of my health.
— Do you practice a certain type of yoga, and why did you choose that particular branch?
I practice Ashtanga Yoga. I sort of stumbled into it. A college friend told me about a summer special at a nearby studio and suggested I sign up. I did and I went to class there every day for a month. After the month was up I just kept going. I was hooked. I think a big part of why I’ve stuck with Ashtanga is because of my teacher. She’s pretty incredible and has been a huge influence in my life. The method of Ashtanga also really resonates with me. I enjoy the repetition, the meditative quality of the breath, the focus and concentration required, the rigor of it and the tradition.
— Do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to establish a daily yoga practice but doesn’t know where to begin?
Find a teacher you connect with. Finding the motivation to practice on your own is challenging but if you have a teacher you admire and respect and a community of fellow students who are counting on you, you’ll show up every day.
— Your recipes are so beautiful, approachable and inventive. What is your process when it comes to developing recipes?
Thank you! Sometimes I’m inspired by meals I’ve had while travelling but mostly I draw inspiration from whatever produce I have on hand. I love combining flavors and experimenting with spices and herbs to elevate something simple and make it unique.
Fun and Inspiration
— What is something you are particularly excited about at the moment?
I’m excited to be incorporating more Ayurveda and wellness themes into my work. It’s a big part of my life and I want to share it with others so they can feel empowered to heal themselves. I’ll be teaching my first Ayurvedic workshop in the Spring here in Seattle which should be a lot of fun.
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
I love a good pedicure or a trip to the Korean spa for a soak and body scrub. But more often I find myself going for a walk or taking myself out to tea if I need a boost.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Song/Album –No Hard Feelings The Avett Brothers
— What are your favorite places to eat in Seattle?
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are some essential objects that would be in yours?
-A big scarf
-A snack (always)
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Jessie Snyder of Faring Well
Photos by Sasha Swerdloff and Renee Byrd