Ayurvedic food expert Janesh Vaidya was born and brought up in a family of traditional Ayurveda physicians in South India. Since ancient times, Vaidya’s are considered as the godfathers of Ayurveda.
“My family has six hundred years of tradition in practicing Ayurveda in my village. According to government census records, we are one of the thirty-five Vaidya families now living in India”
In 2010 Janesh published his first book, where he explains Ayurveda in a way that makes it easy for western readers to digest this ancient wisdom of life. A yoga book and a cook book called ‘Food is my Medicine’ followed, about how to personalize food with the right recipes for every health condition. This year, he released his second cook book ‘Food from my village’. Rituals asked him about his special recipes, his research and experience in the food culture all over the world and his own Ayurvedic rituals.
How and when did you first become interested in Ayurveda?
I started my Ayurveda education with my grandma, who was also a poison therapist. During my teenage years, I continued my studies in vedanta, vedic astrology, numerology, yoga, tantra and meditation with different teachers in India.
Ayurveda is a vast subject and even after three decades of practice, I am still standing on the shore of this ocean with my little knowledge, like a little child holding a few shells in my palm. That is why I dedicated my second book ‘Ayurveda for Your Mind’ to my grandfather, who practiced Ayurveda for more than eighty years. In his last words, he said that he was happy to live and die as a student of Ayurveda.
What would be your best advice for those who are completely new to Ayurveda but want to try it
First of all, you need to understand that Ayurveda is a complete natural solution for your health, but it is not taking some herbal pills or doing some massages, like a lot of people have in mind. Ayurveda is a holistic subject, and with the help of its tools you can study and grow all four levels of your health – physically, mentally, sensually and spiritually – in your life.
But remember that we all are students of Ayurveda, and the nature is our ultimate guru. All our experiences in our daily life, are our real time lessons. So see the Ayurveda studies as a life time practice, and take steps to improve. Don’t get upset with small mistakes and slow improvement, but instead: remind yourself about the mission and vision of your life.
In 2013, you published a book called Food is My Medicine. Can you tell us about the book and what inspired the title?
The message of the book is ‘if the nature can create you, nature can also heal you’. Let healing come into your body through natural food. Don’t forget that the entrance door of health and disease is your mouth. Every time you pick up a piece of food, think for a moment. Am I eating for my life or for my death? Then you get the answer.
Every meal you eat during the day, is the only chance to eat your medicine. That is the only chance to get nature’s healing properties inside you. When you eat junk food, remember the fact that you are missing a chance to nourish your body.
Much of Ayurveda focuses on the three doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. But do you have any general food tips that apply to all three types?
Always start the day with a glass of water in the morning. You should always avoid food and drinks that are poisoning your blood like processed sugar, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Also, try to get away from artificial sweeteners, food colourings, additives and genetically modified organisms (GMO). And last but not least, reduce or avoid animal sources and adapt a clean and healthy plant based food habit.
Your latest book, Food from My Village, contains over 100 vegetarian recipes. Why and how is vegetarianism important to the Ayurvedic diet? Is being a vegetarian a requirement, or can meat-eaters also join in?
Everybody can practice Ayurveda – the natural health science. But if you want to get the best results, you need to eat medicinal food directly from nature, which is a plant based diet. You can decide for yourself if you want to add or avoid healthy or unhealthy habits to your daily life.
Can you tell us a little bit about Vaidya’s Ayurveda Village? What role does food play in the retreats?
Vaidya’s Ayurveda Village is situated at the coast of the Arabian sea in South India. The health retreats are mainly focusing on cleansing and rejuvenating programs. While two to three weeks programs are focusing on cleansing of the body and mind, the four to six weeks programs are aiming to rejuvenate the body and mind. Prior to arrival, we’ll prepare herbs and oils for different symptoms and health condition. On arrival, our chief physician will diagnose the guest and design a treatment program according to present dominating symptoms.
The program includes daily Ayurveda treatments and herbal applications, an individually designed plant based diet and a lot of yoga therapy. Every guest can also participate in meditation, mind-workshops, Ayurveda cooking classes and Indian dance practice. We mainly use locally grown vegetables to support the farmers as well as to get organic and clean food from nature. We consider natural medicine as one of the main things in the healing process in body and mind.
Of all your daily Ayurvedic rituals, which one do you find the most important and why?
Food definitely plays the main role in everyone’s life. If you eat healthy and clean food, everything else you do in life will support your health and let you grow into your maximum potentiality.
If you drink alcohol for example, you shouldn’t do yoga for the following 48 hours since your liver needs time to clean the alcohol from your system. If you drink alcohol on Friday and practice yoga on Saturday, you’re actually putting more pressure into your system to channelize the alcohol polluted blood maximum into your body cells, which is harmful for your body. Yoga is helping our blood stream by improving the circulation, and it can’t decide for itself whether blood is polluted or not. So start with food and drink disciplines before you start with any other health practices in your life. Eat fresh, think clear and live clean.
What is your favorite quote?
A good life means treating yourself good, physically and mentally.