Guidelines for AssistingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP

What should Yoga instructors know about giving an assist before a potential legal problem arises? Are there some general guidelines for assisting? Have you ever had an assist that did not really help much? Have you ever had a physical assist that hurt you physically or in any way? Do physical assists during asana practice make you feel uncomfortable? Is it really necessary for teachers to give a physical assist?

As most of you already know, a physical assist is for the purpose of adjusting a student into proper alignment in a Yoga class. So, why make such a “fuss” over it? One student may see something as an assist – while another may feel you have crossed the line into sexual harassment.

What should Yoga teachers know about giving an assist before a potential problem arises? As a Yoga instructor, or body worker, you should have clear cut policies concerning many things, but let’s focus on physical assists for now. Your release forms for Yoga students should explain what a student can, and cannot, expect from an assist; and you should get their permission in writing.

This is one good reason why you should never let a new student into a class without filling out the necessary applications and having a meeting about their expectations. This gives potential students a chance to be informed as to what to realistically expect from Yoga. In the process, he or she can agree to a physical assist or refuse it on the spot.

This policy of clear cut information, and an interview before classes, is good for the teacher and the student. From the start, you are developing the student / teacher relationship and creating a rapport with new students.

With this said, now you understand one more logical reason why students, who arrive late to a Yoga training session, are refused. It is bad enough to contend with interruptions in the flow of your lesson plan. Now, add to this that a student should do a warm-up before jumping into class. When a student is injured, in one of your classes, you will ultimately take responsibility.

The previously mentioned scenario has the potential for a liability suit. In the words of a friend and attorney of mine, “Anyone can be sued, but that does not mean every plaintiff will successfully win a case.”

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