All yoga teachers and studios must obtain a release of liability from each student. An effective release will place you in a better position to negotiate a settlement if a complaint for personal injury is brought against you and may provide a defense to a lawsuit.
The release is an important barrier to liability because a studio or teacher may not be protected by their insurance policies. Some examples are the claim being excluded from coverage, failure to pay the premium so coverage has lapsed, the insurance company wrongfully denying a claim, the value of the claim exceeding the limits of the insurance policy, a failure to report the claim within the time limits of the policy, or a bankruptcy of the insurance company.
Elements of An Effective Release
A well-drafted release should describe all of the services and activities provided by the studio; require the student to assume the risk of harm from participating in the activities; waive all claims against the studio, owners, teachers and independent contractors; require the student to agree that he or she will not engage in any inappropriate conduct; and require the student to represent that he or she is in good medical condition. If you intend to take photographs or videos of classes or workshops, you release must include permission to do so.
Make Sure Teachers Are Covered
The release of liability should include teachers within the definition of the parties who are covered by the release. My review of many forms of releases routinely used in the yoga world shows that most do not include the teachers within the scope of the release. Therefore, if you are a teacher you may not be covered by the release! Since it is impractical for the teachers to get students to sign a second release protecting the teachers, the studio’s release must cover the teachers. Studios and teachers should review their form of release and make sure that it covers both the teachers and the studio.
Private Lessons and Releases
If you teach private lessons, you should have your students sign a private student agreement. This agreement should cover such matters as release of liability, general health information, information about the student’s wellness practice and problem areas, privacy, cancellation policy and teaching rates. An agreement will establish the rules of your relationship and lessen the chances of a disagreement with your students. Even if you decide not to use an agreement for your private lessons, make sure that you get a release.
If you are teaching a workshop at a studio, you must have a release of claims from each student. However, you cannot assume that the studio’s standard form of release will cover your workshop. Make sure the studio’s form covers you (as the workshop presenter), the students who attend the workshop and the workshop itself. Because some forms of release only cover regularly scheduled yoga classes, it may not cover an extraordinary event such as your workshop. Be aware that many studios neglect to get releases from people that attend workshops but are not regular students.
If you are leading a retreat as an individual teacher or as a studio, you must get a release from every student who attends the retreat. You should have your students sign a retreat agreement to cover you from the many risks inherent in travel and attending retreats. The release may be included within the retreat agreement. Obtaining a release is important for international retreats due to the additional risks inherent in foreign travel. These may include health, fitness and vaccination requirements, visa requirements, political, military or weather developments, and local medical treatment.