More Than Sunscreen

Judging from the Instagram and Facebook feeds of those in the yoga community, it’s easy to tell: it’s retreat season. Seems like everyone knows someone who’s taking a trip to someplace warm and exotic to practice yoga, eat delicious and healthy food, and check out from the busyness of life for a period of time. To which I say, great idea! I myself am leaving in just a few days for the first of four yoga retreats that I’ve planned and organized for this year, and I am thrilled to be taking this time to focus on my yoga practice, enjoy the smell of the ocean during morning meditation, hang out with new friends, and relax after all the hard work and preparation that went into making it a reality.

If you are a studio or teacher who has organized a yoga retreat, then you already know all the work and time that is required to make it a successful trip.  My question for you is, are you protected for what may come in this endeavor? (And I’m not talking about sunscreen or STDs - but please take all necessary precautions there, too!) Here are a few ideas I have to you get there.

A key element to the practice of yoga is being present - in the moment, in the breath, in the pose. YOU don’t want to disrupt your flow with anxious worries about the unknown.

While we can’t predict every mishap or surprise, I recommend you take the time to gather your thoughts, get your legal bits in order, and then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor, connect with your students, and relax.

The most common source of liability for yoga studios and teachers is from student injury during classes and workshops. As you can imagine, taking a group of students away on a trip opens up a whole different realm of possible liability, even more so once we go international.  As a teacher and organizer, you want to make sure you assess and protect yourself against the risk of liability. The two most important ways to do this are through a well-drafted release from liability and insurance.

A release is an agreement that your students enter into when they sign up for the retreat, which releases you from liability should participants get hurt, sick, or suffer any other type of injury while they’re on retreat with you. Make sure that this form is enforceable and effective.  If you are hosting your retreat through a yoga studio, you want to make sure that the studio’s insurance policy specifically covers its teachers, including when you’re on retreat.  And if you’re the yoga studio sponsoring the trip, same goes.

In addition to being mindful of liability issues, communicating clearly with your retreat participants is crucial. A detailed description of your offering and your cancellation policies should also be included in your release.

As we all know, even if someone has signed a release, this doesn’t always prevent her from filing a lawsuit. A third and increasingly common way of protecting yourself or your studio is by forming a business entity which limits your personal liability, such as an LLC.

Contact me with questions about any of this, or if you’d like help with your releases and setting up your business entity. I can also work with you to organize your next retreat, so all you have to do is show up and teach. Let’s do margaritas on the beach after yoga.


So you want to open a yoga studio?

Congratulations on deciding to open your own yoga studio! This is a big decision and undoubtedly not one you have taken lightly. In moving forward, here are a few thoughts to consider for making this a smooth and successful endeavor.

1.       Set your intention.  You have decided that opening a studio is the best route for you to bring your practice forward into the community. Great! Now, tell me why. What is it about having a brick and mortar space of your own that gets you excited? What really moves your heart and mind into this commitment? What is your true intention? You will need to return to this intention many times over the course of your studio ownership. Know it and own it. Consider writing a mission statement and reading it every day.

2.       Plan your sequences. The yoga industry is booming and, depending on your community, your studio might be one more in a large market - what makes it special? How will your studio be different from the one down the street? Which practices will you offer? Who are your students and how do you plan to serve them? How will you treat your teachers? Think about the culture you want to create.

Have you thought about the legal and logistical issues around the studio space itself: will you rent or own your space? If renting, have you carefully reviewed the lease? Is the space you’ve chosen zoned for business? Do you have upstairs or downstairs neighbors that might have some opinions about noise, increased foot traffic, or people blocking their driveway? What is the neighborhood like? Is your block safe and well-lit for students who come for evening classes? Is the studio space itself safe for your students - are there risks that you can minimize? Does the studio comply with ADA regulations? Have you secured liability insurance?

Do you have a business plan? What are your short- and long-term goals and how do you plan to achieve them? What are your funding sources? How will you accept payments?

Put some serious thought into the answers to these questions and lay a strong warrior foundation for your asana.

3.       Bring it to the mat. Now that you’ve set your intention and planned your approach, it’s time to get on the mat and take action.  Who are your teachers? Will they be employees or independent contractors? What are your policies for hiring, firing and discipline? Do you need to offer health insurance? Does California’s new paid sick leave policy apply to part-time employees (answer: yes)? Who will open and close the studio every day - you? Where will you buy your mats and props? Is it best to have an ongoing agreement with your vendors to replace equipment? Will your teachers be playing music in their classes? Do you need to consider copyright issues?

4.       Practice, practice, practice. Return to your intention. Remember why you are doing this, and … enjoy! Studies show that students relate best to teachers and studio owners who are warm and friendly, and gravitate toward those who are authentic in their own yoga practice. We can all spot a fake from a mile away. When you use the skills and mindset you have developed in your yoga practice to succeed at your yoga business, the rest will follow.