Yesterday, I met 25 other yoga teachers during an introduction day to a yoga teacher training course for detainees in a small village near Oxford. Most of the attendees came there on the train then taxi or with their own cars.

The presentation was particularly interesting, and the question of our motivation was raised. Everyone answered and the answers were intense and moving. Most yoga teachers explained how yoga has transformed their lives. This inner transformation is always the main reason why they teach yoga to others. Their desire to help, to share, to support, their feeling of compassion and love were everywhere.

At the end of the day, we were three of us in front of the studio door having to reach the rail station 5 minutes away. None of those present offered to drop us off at the station and when we asked, the answer was always “sorry it isn’t my direction”. So, we called a taxi.

What does it mean to state that we are compassionated, loving, empathetic if we turn the head away when a fellow needs 5 minutes of our time? It’s great and nice to want to help the poor, the anxious, the depressed, the migrants, the cancerous, the prisoners, but are we really able to help them as they deserve if we show no compassion for those present in our daily life, if we are not able to give 5 minutes of our time to help our neighbour?

This episode reminded me of an excerpt from Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s book “Open Heart, Open Mind”. He explains that as we work with the various practices of mindfulness, a genuine transformation begins to occur. We begin to reconnect with a sense of openness and warmth of love. And then a sense of wellbeing and inspiration arises. Unfortunately, Rinpoche warns, many of us get caught up in this sense of well-being and rest in our comfort zones, our contentment dimming our awareness of the pain and hardship that others around us may be feeling.

Teaching yoga and mindfulness should not be an occasion for us to show a brand-new identity of which we are so proud and to boast it in front of a crowd of desperate. We forget the most essential lesson that the Buddha tried to instil in us as the deepest of all teachings: that until all of us are free, none of us is free.

I don’t really blame my fellow yoga teachers because there are still times in my life where I just want “to settle into my own comfort zone – a cosy complacency that I ultimately find quite disturbing!”