Should Yoga Studios Ask Students to Sign a Liability Waiver?
1. Obtain insurance. Yoga teachers should obtain professional liability insurance, and yoga studios should obtain an umbrella insurance policy. Each should read their policy carefully to ensure they are receiving sufficient and appropriate coverage.
The informed consent/liability waiver form, while offering no guarantee of freedom from liability or legal action, can add to these risk management tools when incorporated into the sign-up sheet for class. Make sure to mention the fact that in any physical activity, risk of serious physical injury is possible; that yoga is no substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment; that yoga practice and/or specific poses are not recommended for individuals with certain conditions (e.g., cardiac illness, later stages of pregnancy, post-surgery); and that the student assumes the risk of yoga practice and releases the teachers and studio from any liability claims.
Placing the risk disclosure and advisory language on the class sign-up sheet can help minimize disruption of the teacher-student relationship. Another option is to have each new yoga student sign such a form once, and then leave the regular sign-in sheet uncluttered. This avoids asking the student sign to the same language again and again, a practice that can sometimes flag the liability concern.
What if, despite a teacher's best intention and awareness, a student finishes a class injured or feeling violated? Again, good communication can be a key to limiting potential liability. It may be helpful, for example, to remain in an empathetic, listening mode, so that the kind of negative energy that leads to litigation may be safely discharged rather than fueled. Such a soft stance is no guarantee against suit, but, unlike denial, frozen fear, or a defensive shield, it may help re-engage the relationship instead of polarizing the dynamic.