As a yoga professional, you probably have a lot of questions when it comes to running your own business in health and wellness. Of course, some of the first things that may come to mind are particulars like location, business model, how many students per class, etc. But have you thought about the legal side of teaching yoga professionally? This brings up a whole new set of questions like, “Do I need yoga instructor insurance?”, “Can I be sued as a yoga teacher?”, or “What is the best way to avoid a lawsuit?”
Having questions about being a yoga teacher is completely understandable. Here at beYogi, we are all about getting all your ducks in a row before getting into a tricky situation. We’ve created a compilation of legal advice for yoga professionals to answer your questions and more.
Corry Sterling: Our Guest Yoga Legal Expert
If you weren’t able to join us for our recent webinar, “Don’t Get Sued” Q&A With A Yoga Legal Expert, we highly recommend checking it out. We sat down with Cory Sterling from Conscious Counsel and discussed some of your most frequently asked questions on legal advice for yoga professionals. We’ve created this resource as a companion piece to further break down some of the things we discussed with Corry.
Why Do People File A Lawsuit?
While there are any number of reasons why someone may file a lawsuit against you, it can be helpful to understand some of the more common causes. Corry provided some professional insight into why a client may file a lawsuit, with some of the key reasoning behind it.
One of the first things Corry lists as a reason for a lawsuit is that your client's expectations are not met. It may be that they thought a certain physical result would take place that is not coming to fruition, they may have assumed a level of accomplishment that they have not reached, or they had some other expectation that is not being fulfilled. Having this notion in mind before starting a yoga lesson with you and then not seeing it become a reality can be a difficult challenge. If their expectations are not met, they may try to resolve their disappointment by going to court.
Corry advises that communicating thoroughly is the best way to avoid a lawsuit from mismanaged expectations. Like any relationship, your relationship with your yoga students will work best when communication is at its center. Thoroughly communicate your expectations as an instructor and what your services include.
As you create legally-binding documentation for your clients to sign before starting under your yoga instruction, it is important to be specific. Ensure that your teacher/client agreements include what you are doing, what equipment you will be using, your location, and every aspect of your yoga practice. The more specific your contract is, the less legal standing a would-be lawsuit has.
Accidents and Injuries
Because yoga directly impacts the physical body of your students, there is the potential risk of injury or bodily harm. The sad truth is accidents can happen to anyone. If that accident results in an injury, it can lead to a lawsuit or liability claim against you as the yoga instructor. Corry advises that legally-binding liability waivers can be a preventative measure to protect you from a liability lawsuit.
In addition to the initial documents that communicate the expectations of your toga instruction, a liability waiver is designed to relieve you of being held liable for certain accidents and injuries. For example, if you are giving your yoga lessons in an outdoor setting, like a park or on the beach, your liability waiver would want to clear you of responsibility for hazards in the area. You may include a clause that places the responsibility of safety on your clients rather than yourself.
With a liability waiver, you are essentially stating that you bear no responsibility for the liabilities that are listed within the release. Once your yoga students sign it, they take on the responsibilities you specify in the agreement. Doing this combined with a thorough documentation of what students can expect, is an excellent initial safety net to protect you against being sued by a client.
Yoga Instructor Insurance: Protection You Need
Being a provider of yoga teacher insurance, here at beYogi, we understand that even if you have all the preventative measures in place, a liability lawsuit can still happen. That’s why you still need yoga instructor insurance to help keep you protected in the event of a liability claim. Not only can yoga insurance help you bear the financial responsibility of a lawsuit, but it can give you peace of mind for the future.
Legal preventative measures and yoga insurance work hand in hand to form a hedge of protection around you as a yoga teacher. Giving yourself multiple layers of security will help you have both preventative measures and a reactionary safety net if something goes wrong. Corry notes that the two are not at odds with each other and are necessary for any yoga instructor.
The yoga instructor insurance you get from beYogi is an excellent starting place for securing your success as a yoga teacher. If you are familiar with our resource materials, you know we talk a lot about how beneficial yoga insurance is for instructors. Our comprehensive policy protects from three types of liabilities; product liability, professional liability, and general liability. Each of these is a necessary coverage to keep you safe and secure financially.
We know the risks of teaching yoga and have created our yoga instructor insurance policy to tailor-fit yogis all over the United States. We offer industry-preferred occurrence form protection to make sure coverage is there when you need it. When looking for insurance for yoga instructors, it's important to have all the facts before deciding, so make sure to check out the policy details to learn more.
Other Steps to Protect Yourself from a Liability Lawsuit
Corry gave some great advice on how yoga instructors could potentially avoid a lawsuit. In answering some of the questions during the webinar, Corry mentioned a few other safeguards you can put in place to protect yourself:
Disclaimers on Content
For our yogis that teach online formats, an additional precaution you can take is to add a disclaimer on your online content. In today’s world, more and more yoga professionals are adding content to their social media, website, blog, or even offering remote yoga sessions. While this convenience is a great tool for modern yoga instructors, it can also present certain legal liabilities.
Just like an in-person session has liabilities associated with it, digital content still holds the responsibility of care. This means that even if you are not meeting in the exact physical location, your content and instruction are subject to fall under scrutiny. Adding a disclaimer on your social media and linking to your website is a simple preventative measure to keep your clients informed and guard against a claim.
Liability Waiver Checklist
Whether you are creating your liability waiver or having it drawn up by a lawyer, there are five things Corry recommends it includes. This is a quick resource to ensure that your liability waiver is up to par and provides adequate protection.
What you will do: Include your yoga class's activities. This will be all the modalities of yoga you will be teaching, the methods of how you will hold courses (online, in-person, in a home, etc.), the equipment that will be used, COVID-19 policies, etc.
Risks involved: In this section, you will want to include the potential risks involved in your listed activities.
Outcomes of risks: Outline how the risk could affect the clients in the future. This may include injuries, changes in lifestyle, working ability alterations, or death.
Voluntary acknowledgment: Here is where your liability waiver will outline that the client is deciding to participate of their own volition and are not being forced into the activity.
Affirmation of health: This is where the client will affirm that they are in a physically healthy state to partake in the services you offer. By acknowledging their state of health, the client is saying they are not increasing their risk of aggravating a pre-known condition by participating in your course.
Release of liability: In this section, the client will acknowledge that they have read the previous information and voluntarily agree to waive their rights to hold you responsible for an issue involving the previously mentioned circumstances.
3. Be Legally Informed
Finally, one of the best ways to protect yourself from a lawsuit is to know your legal standing. As soon as you can, gather as much info on your position, your rights, and how you are protected legally. Staying informed is one of your best weapons in a legal situation.