You’ve just arrived at a new yoga studio and the only thing standing between you and your practice is—the yoga liability waiver. Most likely you’ve signed some sort of document at every studio you’ve practiced at. You’ve also probably not read that document before adding your signature to it. Sure, you might have skimmed it and caught a few words. But what does it all mean? And how does this piece of paper impact you if you’re injured in class?
To start, what is a waiver and what is its purpose? A waiver aims to protect businesses from liability. A waiver contains the description of the activity and the reasonably foreseeable risks that may occur. It also includes an agreement that seeks to place the legal responsibility for those risks on you, as the participant. By signing a liability waiver, you essentially agree not to sue if you get hurt. Yoga is generally presumed to be a safe activity, but injuries can occur, especially for those with pre-conditions or for new practitioners.
Now you might be thinking, “What would I sue for anyway?” The typical lawsuit for injury would be a “negligence” lawsuit. Negligence is legally defined as the failure to take reasonable care when one has a duty to do so, resulting in injury or damage to another person to whom that duty was owed.
Here’s what that breaks down to: Yoga teachers have a duty to their students to provide adequate instruction and supervision. Likewise, the studio has a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for your practice. If either the teacher or the studio breaches their duty and you are harmed as a result, then the basis for negligence exists. After all, people practice yoga to promote health and wellness!
It’s important to know that if you sustain an injury, you may have a valid claim, even if you signed a waiver. The enforceability of these waivers, and whether there is a claim for negligence, differs based on which state you are in, the language used in the waiver, and the particular facts of your case.
For instance, it is likely that a waiver would not protect a studio if the mirrors collapsed on you during savasana. Sound terrifying? Not to scare you, but this actually happened. This scenario isn’t really an anticipated risk of practicing yoga and relates to the studio’s duty of care owed to you as a client. However, a waiver may apply should you faint in a hot yoga class due to heat.
Even if you do happen to get hurt during class, does the idea of litigation against your beloved local studio just not sit right with you? After all, it could arguably go against some of the yogic principles by which practitioners strive to abide. You have another option. Mediation is a popular form of alternative dispute resolution by which both parties seek to hear each other out and negotiate a beneficial settlement. Through mediation, you can seek reimbursement of any medical costs and perhaps reach a favorable resolution that you can sleep with at night.
The occurrence of severe injuries related to yoga is reportedly low, and let’s hope this trend continues. If you do happen to be injured, keep in mind that while only a licensed attorney in your state can best advise you, there are options available to you.