Vegetarianism and yoga - American style
A Canadian's tale of vegetarian living in Beverly Hills
by Deena Rasky

How do you survive a visit to the United States with the Canadian dollar dropping lower every day? Our visit comprised of a three-month intensive yoga teachers' training program in glamorous Beverly Hills, California, plus a couple weeks of leisurely traveling through the deserts of Arizona. Originally my husband was going to take a contract job in the area to offset the living expenses. However, when he saw the yoga studio and met the charismatic instructor Bikram Choudhury , he changed his mind and took the course with me. I'm glad he did, because in my view, a healthy body is worth more than money in your pocket.

The most important rule for survival in expensive Beverly Hills is that you don't eat out. That's not too difficult in a city where restaurants are rated by their ambience and decor instead of food quality and taste. Mind you, it is certainly a treat visiting the News Room on Robertson Blvd. for its seemingly endless list of fresh juices and tasty vegan soups.
Secondly, out of necessity one has to comparison shop. We were anticipating fresh and inexpensive Californian produce; even visualizing a few months of many avocado dishes. Billboards urging us to fall in love with Californian avocados greeted us everywhere. Sure, no problem. That is, until we visited the supermarket and discovered that our object d'amour will cost us $2.00 U.S. Huh? It costs under $1.00 Canadian back home. The other people in our yoga house were also taken aback by the grocery prices. The explanation by consensus was that the real estate prices for supermarkets in our glitzy area were tacked onto the goods.
We found it quite ironic that health food stores sell alcohol. Our favourite place to shop was Trader Joes. Imagine a cross between Loblaws, the Big Carrot and a liquor discount store. Trader Joes has healthy and inexpensive house brand items such as varieties of whole-wheat bread, soybean butter and yummy fruit smoothies.
One item we included in many meals was the reasonably priced and deliciously spiced Italian Lean Link "sausages" from Lightlife. I was so enthusiastic about this product and their Foney Baloney, I called them (1-800-274-6001) to find out more about the company. According to their newsletter, they started out as the first North American company dedicated to producing tempeh. Their mission was to convert people from a meat-based to a plant-based diet, so in 1984 they introduced the wheatless Tofu Pup and in 1988, Smart Dogs, the first fat-free hot dog. The newsletter also includes such yummy recipes as the one reprinted here:
Tempeh mock chicken salad
8 oz. tempeh, diced into 1/3 inch cubes
2 Tbsp vegetarian broth powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
( I used 1/4 cup fresh chives instead)
4 Tbsp tofu mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste (paprika and a dash of curry powder is nice too)
Steam diced tempeh for 15 minutes over simmering water. Then, in a medium bowl, mix the broth powder and pepper with the remaining water (at least 1/4 cup) and add the tempeh. Allow to marinate for 15 to 30 minutes; remove and drain, discarding all excess liquid; combine with the remaining ingredients (Serves 4-6).

Our time spent at the Yoga House consisted of more than just eating. Our mission was to complete a 2-1/2 month intensive yoga teacher's training program and become certified Bikram yoga instructors. In a converted dance studio that holds 120 students maximum, we practiced two 90-minute classes each day with the temperature averaging 105 degrees. No, Beverly Hills is not that hot. The reason for the heat is because a stiff body can bend better when it's heated up. It really does work and fast! In our Toronto studio, you can see the improvements on a person's body in just three weeks with better posture, loss of weight, more athletic looking and a strengthened spine from tailbone to the neck. No wonder Bikram's yoga is so popular, especially among the stars and athletes. More remarkable is how it helps people with diseases such as diabetes, thyroid ailments or cancer. We often heard testimonials from teacher trainees and regular students alike.
It was a great course. My body changed dramatically for the better and I'm now teaching yoga part time in Toronto. The pocketbook is a lot lighter too but I hope I have passed on some good hints. Drop me an email at: or come and visit the Toronto version of Bikram's Yoga College of India at: 720 Spadina Ave. Suite 306 (416) 961-9530. Visit the Lightlife web site at: Lots of great recipes! The Trader Joe's site is: