concerns about liability in yoga classesBy Faye Martins

When teaching yoga in today’s world, liability is part of the package. Yoga has gained popularity and more and more people are giving it a try. This is both a positive and a negative, as some people who are unprepared for the asana practice are taking it on without paying heed to the potential risks involved. Although it doesn’t really fit in with a pure yogic philosophy; students and teachers connecting with their inner spirits, breathing deeply, and stretching through muscles, when faced with a class full of people with various levels of skill, liability is reality. Yoga instructors need to be aware of potential liabilities and plan accordingly. However, they should not let it affect other aspects of teaching a well-rounded yoga class.

Yoga teachers can take some proactive measures to ensure that liability will take a back seat to their yoga classes. Firstly, they should have safety guidelines in place. Most Yoga teacher training programs dedicate hours toward student safety, communication, modifications, assisting, methodology and anatomy. These Yoga teacher certification subjects are extremely important for the prevention of student injuries.

Secondly, all Yoga teachers should obtain liability insurance, which will protect them in the event that a client seeks reparations for injuries due to yoga. By obtaining insurance, yoga instructors can rest assured that if something does happen, the insurance would cover it.

It is also the responsibility of the teacher to ask students about injuries, perhaps by having each student fill out some type of medical history form or questionnaire. The teacher is then responsible for notifying each student of potential risks, based on the information received on each student. Yoga teachers need to explain the potential risks of all poses upon teaching the pose, and caution any specific students accordingly, showing them modifications of poses.

Yoga teachers’ concerns of liability are legitimate concerns. However, it could be detrimental if fitness based yoga teachers and institutions let potential liabilities get in the way of providing a challenging physical class to their students. There is a fine line between ensuring adequate coverage of the instructor and letting fear of injury run the class. For example: If a student walks into an advanced Power Yoga class, he or she expects a physical challenge.

Yoga teachers must keep in mind that part of their job includes teaching ethically, which entails disclosing all necessary information about the poses and breathing methods to the students. If yoga teachers feel confident that they are doing the best they can to alert students to risks, help them learn to listen to their own bodies, and teach them that yoga is not a competitive sport, then liability should be the least of their concerns.

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