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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Role Modeling Green from the Yoga Mat

Mar 30, 2011 08:28PM ● By Lee Walker

From Duke Doudna’s perspective, living green means making mindful choices in every aspect of his life. The founder of Yoga Oasis not only teaches his students that there is more to yoga than simply keeping the body and mind healthy, fit and flexible, he also role models his yogic lifestyle of awareness, a conscious way of living in the world.

He demonstrates the importance of being mindful about even the most ordinary things, such as using small scraps of reusable cloth instead of paper towels in his studio. “Living by example means that I don’t have to talk a lot about it,” says Doudna, who has also made a conscious choice to use non-toxic soap, water and elbow grease to clean his studio. “It generally does the job,” he notes.

Yoga practice, which has historically been viewed in the Eastern world as more than a way to work out, grounds Doudna in awareness of his personal wellness and connection to the world in which he lives. In India, yoga is taught in the context of a relationship with the Earth, all the creatures that inhabit it and its processes and systems; a teaching that can result in a profound appreciation and even reverence for animals, plants, soil, water and air.

“My decisions are influenced by my practice and have an impact on the planet, and their repercussions on my personal well-being naturally lead to Earth-friendly behaviors,” advises Doudna, who provides a blue recycling container for students that come to classes with plastic water bottles.

While some students have no idea what the icon on the side of the bin represents, they get to learn when they attempt to toss in a paper cup. That’s when Doudna gets his chance to make them aware that the bin is for plastic water bottles. “Now they actually know people who recycle and that it’s okay for them to do it, too,” remarks Doudna, who jokes, “Call it karma, the law of cause-and-effect, or what-goes-around-comes-around, but whatever you call it, the cycle plays out in the quality of my students’ life experiences and my own.”

Living plants are another way Doudna connects his studio with the natural world. Located in an office building that dates to the 1960s, his space harbors some age-related challenges that are softened by the plants and a wide expanse of windows that face east. “I think the consciousness of plants reminds everyone, consciously or unconsciously, that we are in enclosed space that exists within a larger world, some of which we can see through the windows,” he notes.

Practice brings awareness, which leads to consideration of choices that underscore the connection between personal needs, financial considerations and the world at large. For example, Doudna is debating about what to do with his current yoga mats, which are not made of sustainable materials. He points out that a decision to change them means having to choose between throwing them away and passing the problem along to the landfill, or keeping them and covering them with blankets. “I could also donate them to the homeless shelter, to be used as sleeping mats,” says Doudna. “Whatever my decision, it needs to be sustainable and in alignment with my Earth-friendly lifestyle.”

Location: 1450 University Ave., Ste. 201, in Hillcrest, San Diego 92103. Classes are offered by practitioners of all yoga styles. Call 619-542-1842 or visit