We had the good fortune of connecting with Sasha Jarufe Ristov and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sasha, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?

I would have to say in both of my main passions in life, I’m inspired by the way I make people feel and the expressions I see on their faces. Whether with food or with yoga, bringing people joy and/or growth in any way is what continues to fuel my drive. When I teach a yoga class, I sometimes remind my students that regardless of what they came in with (energetically) they will always leave their mats feeling more balanced. Those that come in with more…give, and those that come in with less…receive. The same goes for me as their instructor. We as yoga teachers and practitioners, do not become immune to the day to day happenings of life and fluctuations in emotion. We do not become robots of love, light and happiness all the time, the stereotypical notion of a yogi is that we are “calm” and “zen” all the time. Instead we work with all aspects of ourselves, the “good” & the “bad”, and we learn to become better humans, using our practice as a tool to cope and grow. Through our practice we learn more about our selves, how our minds & bodies work hand in hand (pun intended), and how to reach a deeper level of consciousness individually, and together. Seeing the growth in my students whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually is what continues to inspire me every day, even on the days it’s hard for me to get out of bed. I feel so honored and humbled to be in the position, where others look to me for guidance. Sometimes, it feels a little scary to have that responsibility on my shoulders…but I think that nervous excitement is what keeps it fresh and new every time I step onto my mat. The butterflies keep us grounded.

I like to call myself a “home-chef” because of how and where I learned to cook. As soon as I could stand on my two feet, I was in the kitchen helping with my little apron on. I draw inspiration from my ancestors and family members who ignited that fire within me. I look to the many master chefs I’ve had the honor of observing in my 11 years working in the restaurant industry. When I’m in the kitchen, its a form of meditation for me. Its one of the few times my mind goes blank, and I only think about the dishes I’m creating and how I want them to taste. That inner peace while doing something I love is so inspiring to me. When the recipient of my culinary adventures tastes their meal, and the corners of their mouth turn up as their eyes close, while letting out a little “mmmmm”….thats all I need and all my hard work is instantly worth it.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I think what sets me apart is my authenticity and care. My students have always said they feel how genuine I am behind my words and actions. That has been my main goal in life overall, and the fact that yoga has made that possible is confirmation that I am on the right path. I’m most proud of my personal growth, and a project that started in August of 2020 during the pandemic. Raw Vegan Chef Carla Martins (a friend of mine who I knew from the yoga & wellness world in South Florida) and I initiated the Rise Up & Flow Club of Fort Lauderdale, after feeling the need for community building experiences in our own backyard. It’s a sunrise yoga community, which we put together after attending a similar set-up in South Beach. Andrew Hague, an amazing yoga instructor based out of Miami created the Breakfast Club off of South Beach Pointe Park. Highly recommended and transformative!

We started with 6 attendees at our first session, I leading the sunrise meditation, yoga flow, and savasana & my creator of magic Carla preparing raw vegan delicious breakfast bites for our members to enjoy afterwards. We have grown to over 35 members and attendees, exceeding what we thought possible. This community has become something so beautiful, creating and cultivating new friendships as well as connecting with like minded individuals. We have not only expanded spiritually but also professionally in so many ways. Not just us but our members as well. We now invite local vendors to come share/sell their talents & skills at each meeting offering everything from sound healing, to chair massages, locally made botanicals, fresh fruit from local vendors, fashion boutiques, etc…Our philosophy is that it is not just for us, but for everyone. I’m very excited to see where the Rise Up & Flow Club will go.

I’m also excited about putting together my own yoga retreats, and assisting in my very good friend Mahogany Johnson’s “Retreats for the Soul” as a yoga instructor & private chef. Being able to combine both my passions has been a fun and exciting new challenge, that didn’t even occur to me until she asked me to do so.

Of course there are tough days just like in anything in life, and the best thing I can do to overcome any challenges is to take one moment at a time. Nothing is going to be perfect, and if we set up this notion of the “ideal” setting than we will only be left disappointed and frustrated. When something doesn’t go the way I wanted or planned, I take it as a sign from the universe because it always has a plan laid out and there really is a reason behind everything. Whether it shows itself immediately or eventually, I’ve learned that we are exactly where we need to be, every moment of every day. I’ve also faced others who didn’t believe in me and even bet against me, sometimes your biggest challenges come from those that oppose you or tell you that you can’t. I’ve learned to stand up for what I believe in, to stand up for myself and learn from every bad or good thing that comes into play. I’ve learned to do things also for myself, to learn to receive as much as give, and that it’s ok to ask for help or to admit when you’re not at 100%. Being open & honest is the best tool that generates the best results.

I don’t really know if what I have is called a “brand”, but I want the world to know that if I can survive the darkest of days and be where I am today, then you can too. My story is more than what meets the surface. In every step that I’ve taken I carry with me trauma & pain, as well as countless blessings and joy. In order to see the unbelievable amount of light this world has to offer, I have faced fears and stared death in its face. Not everyone needs to experience what I have, and I don’t wish them to. I only want for others to be inspired to keep going, to know that they are not alone in their personal journeys, and that life is worth living even when it seems impossible. You are not alone, you are loved, you are important, you are valued, and you are here.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

I moved to South Florida in December of 2018 so I’m relatively still new to the area but I definitely have my favorites!!

In Fort Lauderdale my absolute favorite restaurant is Heritage, I love their cocktails, their authentic and amazing Italian food & NY style pizza, and stellar service. Top hangout spots are B-Square Burgers & Booze, Piazza, Riverside Market, Park & Ocean, Coconuts and Elbo Room. My favorite beach spots in FTL start off at Vista Park and the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. We’d start off on a walk around the park and then end up at Park & Ocean bar for live music on the weekends and great local beers. Another favorite spot is Myapapaya with its yummy smoothies, bowls, and delicious food. I would definitely take them to my home studio in Soflo for a delicious hot yoga class at Yoga Factory & Fitness, where the infrared red lamps make all difference.

In Miami, my favorite restaurants are Hakkasan, Sylvano’s, Mila Resturant, Stubborn Seed (such a NY vibe here I love it, and it’s owned & run by Top Chef Season 13 winner Jeremy Ford), and Smith & Wollensky (great spot to ride your bikes on the boardwalk and end up here for a fresh beer). The Standard is an awesome spot even if you just get a day pass for the pool & spa, its on the water, and a great vibe with the fire-pit at night and all the little hidden nooks. The Setai has a great set-up for the beach during the day, as well as a great restaurant by the pool. and it’s main restaurant is a fun place for dinner and very cool atmosphere. Now the Faena Hotel is a MUST visit. The decor is out of this world, tickets for a show in the Faena theater is a huge must, and a visit to their restaurant Los Fuegos is a perfect way to end the day. The 1 Hotel has a great lobby bar and setup with live music at times, and their interior decor is very earthy and grounding, don’t forget to hit their rooftop pool for a drink and app! My favorite yoga studios there are Tropical Vinyasa & Green Monkey, and of course every Friday Andrew Hague’s Breakfast Club on the beach!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint one person or group. Everything I’ve done, everyone I’ve met throughout my lifetime has had an influence as to who I am today.

When it comes to my culinary passions, the women in my family had a huge effect on me. I was guided by the loving and maternal hands of my grandmothers, great-aunts, aunts, nannies, and of course my mother. I was raised by generations where the women were the masters in the kitchen, whilst the men manned the grills. I was blessed to be brought up in a multi-cultural family, where the spices, traditions and techniques were without limit. I’m so thankful to have that experience, and encouragement to create. Their triumph behind my results as I learned and created on my own was certainly a motivating factor, and when I cook I feel them next to me watching over me with a proud and watchful eye. Working in restaurants with some amazing chefs motivated me to further learn new techniques, to have passion and pride with the plating of my dishes, and expand my knowledge and imagination in the kitchen.

Yoga was something I tried here and there growing up, but never seemed to click for me. In my mid-twenties I was going through some kind of breakup and usual 20 something’s woes, when one of my bar regulars mentioned yoga as a possible tool to “help”. I was looking to move my body, and if it was going to benefit my mental health…why not? He brought me to my first hot yoga class, lo and behold there I was blinking through the sweat & tears and I was hooked. It was the first time I found something physically beneficial that I enjoyed consistently, and it was having an overall positive effect on me that everyone started to notice. I ended up quitting the restaurant industry, where I had thought I was going to stay forever, and taking a job at my home studio in Greenwich, CT: Kaia Yoga. I was convinced it was the only thing I was good at and good for. So many times we are placed in this “box” of only doing one thing for the rest of our lives, when we are all multi-faceted. I began to learn the business end of the yoga world, moving up from Front Desk Associate to Studio Manager, Retail Manager, and Yoga Instructor. After working & practicing there for a bit, teachers, my mentor Gina Norman, and close friends had started to plant the seeds in my brain that I should consider teacher training. Thanks to their encouragement & support I drew up enough courage to pursue a completely new career. I could have never imagined this is where I would be.

I’m also thankful for the friends, family, and students who believed in me and consistently came to my classes and let me practice on them in the beginning. I’m so grateful for those who took a chance on me. I must also acknowledge every instructor I have ever taken class with, whether in CT, FL, Costa Rica, Colombia, or LA…I learned something from all of you.

Lastly to all my guinea pigs, whether in yoga or in food, you have made me all the better.

Instagram: @sashiyogini

Linkedin: Sasha Jarufe

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sasha.jarufe

Image Credits
Jai Torres at ROV Productions Maria Fornieles Photographer

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