You’ve probably heard horror stories about other teachers’ retreat experiences gone awry or had moments of panic about disaster striking your own group while on the road. Imagine getting into a conflict with a student over a financial obligation, someone taking a tumble during that selfie-worthy horseback riding excursion, or a flare-up of a recurring injury from an adjustment during a sunset yoga session. To make sure that what should be a dream-come-true adventure doesn’t turn into a nightmare expedition, be really clear (in writing) with your students about their legal, financial, and safety obligations in your retreat waiver.
Having a solid set of terms & conditions and liability or other waiver(s) outlining your obligations to your students and theirs to you is professional and provides mutual protection. When students register for your retreat, they should acknowledge and agree to your retreat’s terms and conditions and sign waivers limiting your legal liability in case something goes wrong. It’s a simple process and everyone benefits.
At first, it didn’t occur to me that I might need these sort of legal protections. I don’t know about you, but I relish focusing on the travel and yoga aspects of retreat planning but get overwhelmed when it comes to the financial and legal side of things. When I realized that I needed to draw up a liability retreat waiver, I soon found out that there was more to it than I originally thought! I started doing some research, googling “retreat waiver” and piecing together what I thought made the most sense. The more time I spent, the more issues I realized I needed to address in writing.
There are lots of ways to protect yourself effectively, but eventually, I came up with two separate waivers that I make every student sign when they register for my retreats: a yoga waiver and a retreat waiver. You’re probably thinking: why not just combine the two? My logic is that I can use the yoga waiver for private clients at home AND retreat clients. The retreat waiver then only has to address retreat-specific issues that wouldn’t apply to my clients at home. That way, I can use them together or separately and they’re always ready to go!
Now I’m going to point out the obvious: it’s way less hassle to have everything be digital these days. Have a link to your waiver(s) on your website and/or retreat page; a simple solution is to have students submit an online form (or two separate forms, as the case may be) indicating that they acknowledge and agree to your provisions. Google Forms is a great tool for building an online waiver and collecting responses. Plus, it’s compatible with any website (or, if you don’t have one, can integrate nicely with Facebook event pages or email campaigns). No paper, printers, or scanners to deal with!
Part 1: My Yoga Waiver
Every yoga studio should have a liability waiver that students must sign before taking a class. If you teach at a studio or gym, ask them to peek at their waiver and start there! This type of waiver should be filled out by everyone practicing yoga on your retreat.
For reference, I have my “yoga waiver” available on my website, which you can access here.
Read everything carefully and pick and choose what you feel applies to your own offerings. Similarly, you may need to add in different provisions based on whom, how, and where you teach (e.g., if you are modifying a studio’s waiver there may be many things in it that do not pertain to what you need as a solo teacher). Make sure you read and fully understand whatever you’re asking people to sign because people undoubtedly will have questions.
Part 2: My Retreat Waiver
The retreat waiver should clearly state your retreat’s terms and conditions, especially if they’re not laid out elsewhere. These include things like:
- Cancellation and refund policies
- Recommendations (or requirements) that students be protected by health insurance while traveling
- Purchase supplemental protection in the form of travelers’ insurance
- Reminders that students’ safety is ultimately their own responsibility.
The retreat waiver should also spell out what the retreat fee does and does not include:
- Which meals are included
- Whether any airfare or ground transportation is provided
- Emergency contact information
- Participants’ passport numbers if traveling abroad
Don’t forget to take along digital and/or paper copies of your retreat waiver so that you always have that information available if needed.
For reference, I have my “retreat waiver” here.
While you don’t have to have a law degree to navigate the sea of potential legal issues involved in teaching yoga, especially when offering retreats, a little bit of research goes a long way. Luckily, there are tons of templates for protecting yourself out there. Do your homework, figure out what feels appropriate for you and your students, and compare notes with fellow teachers. At the end of the day, you’ll rest easier knowing that both you and your students are prepared, protected, and ready for a wonderful retreat experience.
Check out WeTravel’s Retreat Leader Resources to help you make it happen!