As yoga teachers, there’s one thing we don’t like to think about, and we certainly don’t like to talk about it: a student getting hurt in class. Just the thought of it probably makes you shudder in fear.
If a student becomes injured during one of your classes, you might feel guilt-ridden that it may have been your fault—or frustration because it definitely was not your fault. There’s also likely fear, because you could be legally or financially responsible. It somewhat follows the antithetical storyline of the best-told Greek tragedies; you don’t make much income teaching yoga, and now you may get sued for it?
The unfortunate truth is that teaching the physical forms of yoga inherently opens you up to liability based on your actions. That’s why liability insurance is important to consider. “Just like any other physical activity—which often includes an inherent risk of physical injury—obtaining a baseline level of insurance is an important part of an overall strategy to limit your liability, because in the event of a lawsuit, the plaintiff(s) will generally look to the insurance company first,” says Ryan Reiffert, Esq., a business attorney in San Antonio, Texas.
In other words: If you teach yoga, you need to have liability insurance. The type of coverage you get is entirely up to you. This chart is a good place to get an comprehensive overview of popular insurance plans; it gives you dozens of coverage categories to consider while you analyze what best fits your needs.
“My recommendation is to find an insurance company that is reputable and is willing to cover your online classes, in-person classes, as well as local or international retreats,” says Huma Gruaz, a yoga teacher and yoga therapist in Orange County, California. “It is also important to find insurance companies that allow yoga teachers to include the name of the studios.” Additionally, your insurance may even be a tax write-off, so that could be an added bonus to offset your expenses of paying the insurance premiums.
The up-front cost of liability insurance may seem like a cumbersome financial burden, but the trade off is definitely worth the peace of mind. Here are 5 reasons why.
1. Yoga can be risky
While we want to believe that everything we do in the name of yoga will only result in happiness, rainbows, and sunny days, we know that this isn’t reality. Sure, the happy yoga endorphins have your back most of the time, but the truth is that students often come to class with a variety of unknown medical histories. And despite your best efforts to get to know them, it is often hard to get into the nitty gritty when you’re leading a group class.
2. Even if you do everything right, you can still be sued
You might be the perfect yoga teacher and the student was negligent, but the finger may still point at you if they get injured. In this scenario, you may have a high likelihood of prevailing in a lawsuit, says Reiffert, but you could still be responsible for hiring and paying for an attorney to defend you. Insurance policies typically cover these expenses. In the unfortunate event that you are found to have contributed to the injury, insurance companies may also cover the settlement fee.
Some students may not reveal anything about their medical history because they’re not ready to share or don’t think it’s relevant. There are a number of circumstances which may arise that you have no control over, yet you may still be held accountable. For instance, if a student with a shoulder injury independently kicks up into handstand while you’re teaching backbends, that could exacerbate the injury. It only takes a split second, but once injury occurs, the cost of his/her surgery, and other incidental expenses, may be on you. Whatever scenario that may arise, it’s best to have liability insurance in the event something does happen, despite your best intentions.
See also: 8 Ways to Build Your Client Base
3. Most of the time, insurance is not covered by the yoga studio
Most studios have insurance coverage specifically for the facility itself, but expect teachers to obtain and pay for their own personal liability coverage. This is because liability is typically assigned to the person performing the purportedly negligent action, and that will be you as the yoga teacher, not the studio.
Don’t be surprised if a studio asks you to add their name to your insurance policy, says Gruaz. Furthermore, you should definitely perform targeted research, because your insurance coverage needs may differ based on whether you are considered an employee or independent contractor of the studio. These requirements may also vary state-by-state.
4. Even when it is covered by the studio, there are limitations
If you are teaching group classes at a studio, the studio may have their own liability insurance. If they do, don’t be shy about asking “what the coverage is and if you personally will be properly covered,” advises Brienne Derosier, a Portland, Oregon-based yoga instructor who also designed the yoga mat storage solution Mache.
Hanging your hat on the studio coverage alone without asking questions is ill-advised, because in the event something damaging does occur, you can still be named in a lawsuit. “Be sure to do your own research for your particular situation and lean toward your own coverage in the event that one of your students is injured,” warns Derosier.
Related: Yes, Yoga Journal offers liability insurance
5. Having students sign a waiver isn’t enough
“Waivers are important to have before you give any instruction to a student, even in a friends and family setting,” says Gruaz. This form demonstrates an injured client’s acknowledgement of risks, and potentially decreases your share of liability in the event of an unforeseen injury. But it won’t totally shield you from liability. Waivers can carry very little leverage, especially if they are presented as a general, non-negotiable form. Bottom line: even if you require students to sign a waiver, you should still strongly consider obtaining liability insurance.
The ideas offered in this article are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as legal advice, professional advice, legal opinions, legal or professional services to you, or any other individual. If you have any concerns or questions about legal matters, you should always consult your attorney directly.
Want to learn more about making the jump from yoga student to yoga teacher? Check out our guide: So You Finished Your Yoga Teacher Training… Now What?