Most professionals in the healthcare and wellness arena, including physical therapists, acupuncturists, fitness instructors, and personal trainers, maintain professional liability insurance coverage. Coverage is never procured with the intent or expectation that it will be needed. Its purpose is to serve as a safety net – to protect professionals who want to devote their focus, energy, and finance to helping others achieve mental and physical balance and wellbeing.
Regardless of how many precautions you may take or how attentive you are to the needs of students during practice, a claim for bodily injury can occur at any moment. The nature of yoga’s physically demanding and intimate practice environment creates a real threat for potential professional liability exposure. No matter which style or form of yoga you teach, it is not uncommon for students to slip, fall, activate old injuries, move too quickly into poses, or push themselves too hard during practice. If injury is sustained during a yoga class, legal recourse may be sought against the yoga instructor individually as well as the yoga studio, and depending on the conduct alleged, the yoga studio or venue in question could well decline to cover or even defend the individual yoga instructor.
Even if a student signs a waiver and/or release of liability agreeing to “assume the risks” associated with engaging in the practice of a physical activity like yoga, such an agreement may not preclude claims arising from personal injury or negligence. Although many facilities that provide fitness instruction require students to execute a waiver and release of liability, an executed release in which the releasee assumes various risks associated with an activity does not explicitly bar claims against the instructor. Even though individuals in fitness activities may be held to have consented, by their participation, to certain injury-causing events, a defendant generally has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect participants from unassumed, concealed or unreasonably increased risks.
Courts will generally evaluate the instructor’s conduct based upon a standard of reasonable care and the codes of best practice in the yoga industry. If an instructor’s conduct is deemed to have fallen below the applicable standard during the incident in question, the instructor will likely be found liable for losses sustained and damages incurred. Regardless of how groundless, frivolous, or false the allegations, a lawsuit must nevertheless be defended. The cost of defending just one claim can jeopardize your career, devastate your business, and put all of your personal financial assets at risk.
Whether you are employed by a yoga studio or are self-employed, having your own professional liability insurance coverage will bring peace of mind to the continued success of your career and the smooth operation of your business. You can obtain wide-ranging protection against claims of all severity – from minor claims seeking reimbursement of medical expenses to complex litigation asserting multi-million dollars in damages. Protecting yourself from loss or legal fees by subscribing to a policy designed specifically to meet the needs of yoga instructors.
 Two widely reported lawsuits were filed in May and December of 2008 by yoga students alleged “severe and permanent injury” from “unsolicited physical manipulation” during a yoga class. See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/nyregion/13stretch.html New York Times, “The Delicate Art of Adjustments” Emily S. Rueb, February 11, 2011.
 See e.g. Machowski v. Gallant, 234 A.D.2d 933 (4thDept. 1996).
 See Id.