Yoga is reputed to be more than 5,000 years old but is probably trendier than it’s ever been. Thanks to social media’s universal trend toward self-care, exercise, and mindfulness, coupled with a booming clothing component, carrying around a yoga mat in public has become almost a status symbol these days. Throw in some nice warm weather into the mix, and it’s no surprise to see yoga classes popping up in parks and other outdoor public spaces all over the country.

If you are a yoga instructor, you may consider this option and wonder how to jump on this trend to earn extra cash or even host a class for free. Here are some answers to questions you may have:

A yoga instructor helping a participant

Why Is Yoga So Popular These Days?

There’s a lot about yoga to like besides comfortable stretchy pants.

Researchers are now exploring its benefits for post-menopausal women, seniors, cancer patients, people with back pain, and athletes. When done correctly and consistently, it can increase bone density, produce endorphins, improve mobility and muscle strength, reduce blood pressure, and enhance mental wellbeing.

Yoga enthusiasts often report not just better health but also a boost in energy, happiness, sleep, and an increased sense of control over their health.

Do I Need to Be Certified and Have a License or a Permit?

A person who hosts a yoga class (or other exercise classes such as Thai Chi or Dancercise) does not have to be a certified instructor or personal trainer. However, these things may be helpful both to build your knowledge and gain the trust of potential clients.

Most municipal public spaces require a permit if you host an organized exercise class there (especially if it’s a larger group or you will be charging fees). Provincial parks often have a slightly different set of criteria – you may need to pay a park fee on top of the other costs or reserve a space in advance. Check with the space or the park itself, as they usually have their own rules and regulations.

Sometimes spaces won’t even issue permits unless you have commercial general liability insurance. For private buildings, such as a rooftop terrace of a condo, you would need to book the space in advance and have the permission of the building to hold a class. You will likely need to pay a booking fee to use the space (and possibly a refundable deposit to cover any property damage that may occur).

Whether or not you have a permit, you will need to be insured either way, as you could be liable if something happens to anyone participating in your session. Simply having them sign a waiver may not provide you with enough protection if one of your participants sues you for third-party bodily injury, for example.

What Are the Risks of Doing Yoga Outside?

Just because yoga is considered a low-impact exercise does not mean that injuries won’t occur. Yoga injuries are common, especially if the participants are a bit older or are beginners. Stumbling into another participant, slippery surfaces, and tripping over equipment (such as a mat) are common challenges, along with injuries sustained from doing the yoga poses themselves.

Having classes outside is an excellent idea for fresh air and sun and not needing to rent a physical bricks-and-mortar space, but the conditions and environment are much harder to control. For example, class goers may stumble over fallen tree roots or uneven ground, get stung by a bee or step in poison ivy, and the weather is unpredictable. Cold muscles are more prone to injury; heat stroke or not hydrating enough may lead to fainting or worse.

How to Prevent Yoga Injuries

As a class host, you are responsible for the safety of your patrons. Ensure you have a basic first-aid kit, fresh drinking water, and a working mobile phone in case something goes wrong. Basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training is not required, but as a yoga instructor, getting trained and certified is worthwhile.

Prepare and share exercise modifications for beginners and other differently-abled people so they can follow along at their own pace. Not all injuries and accidents can be prevented, but many of them can be avoided or minimized if you encourage your class to follow these steps:

  • Consult a doctor or a physiotherapist if you are new to yoga, have a history of spine fractures, or are feeling uncertain
  • Breathe into stretches, and pull back if it hurts
  • Practice the correct form and build strength before attempting advanced poses
  • Protect your wrists by spreading your fingers and using the heel of your hand
  • Evenly distribute body weight to alleviate pressure on your neck
  • Make sure the class is the right one for your level
  • Ensure you are comfortable with your instructor and don’t attempt a position that you’re unsure you can do

What Is Yoga Instructor Insurance and Why Does It Matter?

Without yoga insurance, trainers are vulnerable to lawsuits from situations that can arise at any moment during a session because of an illness or injury. You may think that because you may already teach classes in a studio, you are already covered if you move outside. But this is probably not the case.

Having a policy that is tailored to you is vital. For one thing, it’s portable, which will cover you outside in a park or inside a condo building and will move with you, even if you choose a different park every week. It’s also worthwhile to ensure you have professional liability coverage as part of your yoga insurance policy (all physical fitness instructors, personal trainers, and physical therapists should have this coverage).

Talk to a Zensurance broker to find out what coverage you may need before you start. Then breathe deeply and clear your mind of worry.

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About the Author: Gail Balfour

Gail Balfour is a writer, editor, and senior content designer with more than 20 years of experience covering areas of business, finance, insurance, technology, and health care. A former editor of ComputerWorld Canada, she has worked with several organizations and publications, including Backbone Magazine, PwC Canada, and RBC Canada