There are some important steps you need to protect yourself as a yoga teacher: careful teaching practices, insurance, and a release of liability. This is the written form that students normally sign before their very first class at any studio, and a form that you should have students sign whenever you teach outside of the studio.
While a release of liability doesn’t guarantee your protection against personal injury liability, it does help you make a stronger case in court should the situation arise. Here’s what you need to know:
Teaching classes in a studio
Studios are generally insistent that each student sign a release of liability. However, these releases don’t necessarily cover their teachers. If you teach classes in a studio, read the release carefully and make sure that you are explicitly covered under its terms. If not, ask the studio owner to revise it accordingly.
Teaching workshops in a studio
If you’re teaching a workshop in a studio, don’t assume that you’re covered. Some releases of liability only apply to the studio’s regularly scheduled classes. Read the release carefully, and if it doesn’t cover workshops, ask the studio owner to provide you with a release that does.
Teaching outside of the studio
If you teach somewhere the legal aspects aren’t already covered—like in your home or in a park—you’ll need to create your own release of liability. In order for it to stand up in court, your release needs to be more than a few sentences and contain the right legal jargon, but still be written so your students can understand it.
Gary Kissiah, a lawyer (and yoga teacher) who represents the wellness community, suggests requiring your students to sign a private student agreement. This covers more than liability and includes health information, your policies, and rates. When this important information is clearly disclosed, you’re less likely to have any disputes between you and your students.
Creating a private student agreement
Your private student agreement should include all of the following information.
The student’s contact information
This includes their name, address, phone number, email, emergency contact name, and phone number.
The student’s health information
You may choose to leave this section out, but when you’re teaching privates it brings light to some health problems that your students may not think to share. You can ask students if they have or previously had any conditions like high or low blood pressure, asthma, injuries, or recent surgeries.
However, once you’re aware of a student’s medical concerns, you have a greater responsibility to keep them safe.
The release of liability
Include the services you offer and relevant education or training, like where you completed your yoga teacher training. Require that the student acknowledges the risk of harm within those services, states that they are in the necessary physical condition to engage in your services, waives all claims against you, agrees to appropriate conduct, and grants you permission to take photos or video for commercial purposes (if that’s something you do).
Rather than coming up with these statements yourself, compare multiple studios’ waivers to find one that feels the most comprehensive and fitting for your services and use it as your template. For extra peace of mind, have it reviewed by a lawyer or pay for a lawyer-approved release template.
Your cancellation policy
Do you require that your students give you 24 hours advanced notice before canceling their class? Do you offer refunds if there’s bad weather? Make your policies very clear to avoid any miscommunication.
Include your teaching rates here, especially if you don’t have a website that officially states class prices.
The student’s signature
Your student must date and sign this release for it to be effective! Explicitly state that by signing the form, the student accepts and agrees to the terms and provisions provided.
Don’t let all this legal stuff turn you off. Requiring a release of liability or private student agreement doesn’t undermine the spiritual dogma of yoga; it’s simply a smart and professional business practice.
- Cohen, Michael H. “Should Yoga Studios Ask Students to Sign a Liability Waiver?” Yoga Journal, 28 Aug 2007. Web. 9 Sept 2014.
- Kissiah, Gary. “Releases of Liability-Make Sure You are Covered!” Gary Kissiah, 19 Nov 2013. Web. 9 Sept 2014.