6 Client-Centered Reasons to Enforce a Cancellation Policy

Money issues for us yoga teachers can sometimes feel like a tricky subject. There is so much confusion and false logic around these ideas. I know because I used to be affected by them…that is until I started really digging into these feelings.
I’ll send another emails soon debunking some of these ideas floating around in the yoga world. But for THIS email, I want to focus on handling cancellations.
I used to be really wishy-washy about cancellations. I felt bad about making people pay when they didn’t show up. Like I was somehow punishing them or conveying that I was angry or upset, when I wasn’t. Sure, sometimes I was disappointed or worried, but never angry or upset.
Enforcing cancellations always felt a little self-important to me as well. I mean, when I was starting out, I was lucky/happy to have any clients. So who was I to enforce a cancellation policy, right?
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it does both us and our clients huge disservice. It is obviously disrespectful to ourselves and our time. But it’s worse than that. Below are six reasons why you should enforce a 24-hour cancellation policy, where if the client doesn’t show up, they pay the full cost of the session.*
1. Not enforcing the cancellation deteriorates trust between you and the client. 

When you don’t have a firm policy in place, the client automatically subconsciously questions your professionalism. They may start to view you as an amateur or a rookie and therefore take you less seriously. That adopted attitude can affect how the client responds to your directions and suggestions throughout the whole session, how much faith they have in your ability to address their needs, goals and problems. In short, it can create a doubt in their mind about you and your method that can undermine the success of the yoga practices. Why start off with a client, climbing an uphill battle for trust when trust is an essential part of creating a successful experience for both of you?
2. Helps to create and commit to a new, healthier habit. 

Enforcing a cancellation policy encourages the student to create and commit to this new, healthier habit they are trying to forge for themselves. Many people struggle with new habits and just knowing that there is a cancellation policy can help to keep newer/busier clients on track. Speaking from personal experience, I go to a boxing trainer every week. There are plenty of weeks I just don’t feel like going. But I know I’m going to get charged if I don’t show up. So I go. And I always feel better. My trainer’s cancellation policy keeps me in check and helps me to keep that weekly session as a part of my wellness routine.
3. Asks students to prioritize their wellbeing in their busy schedule. 

A firm cancellation policy also means that in a busy life, our clients are incentivized to take the time to care for themselves. In a world where stress-based health conditions are all too real, we are reinforcing the idea that we all have to take time to care for ourselves and not just put self-care on the back burner until we burnout. A cancellation policy is even a way for us yoga teachers to help our students set boundaries in their life – and scapegoat us if need be! I have a student who proudly announces to her work place every Tuesday evening that she has to go because she has yoga…and that if she doesn’t go she gets charged. My policy gives her a reason to set clear boundaries with her colleagues and not just work herself into the ground every week. Her colleagues now see a difference in her anxiety levels and are all supportive of her weekly yoga classes!
4. Shows our students how yoga can be used when we aren’t at our best (and that the practices of yoga go beyond asana as exercise).
When we aren’t at our best, we tend to want to cancel our self-care practices. But for us yoga teachers, these times in our students lives provides us an opportunity to show them how yoga can be used in a way that lifts us up and in a way that goes way beyond acrobatics and exercise. These moments can be invaluable to our students.
As an example, I have a student that gets migraines. In the beginning she would cancel when she felt one coming on, but once I started enforcing the cancellations, they started to add up. So, she started having me come, even if she felt one coming on. Turns out, the practices we work on together (in her case, meditation, visualization, deep breathing and gentle movement concentrated in the spine and shoulders), actually helps to relieve or lessen the impact of the migraine most of the time! We never would have known that if I had never enforced the cancellation policy.
5. Gets the client into the habit of using their yoga practice in a real situation…not just when everything aligns perfectly. 

When we get our clients to keep their sessions with us, even if they are stressed out or not at their best, we show them that yoga is a tool for dealing with those situations, in real time. Not just when everything in our life is aligned. We yoga teachers pay a lot of lip service to taking yoga off the mat and into our lives. But if we aren’t enforcing a cancellation policy, we are actually discouraging our students from doing that.
6. Asks students to be mindful of their circumstances and check in regularly instead of letting problems go ignored. 

This benefit of a cancellation policy sort of piggy-backs off the one above. Sometimes, our clients really DO need to cancel their yoga sessions. But having a cancellation policy means that they need to check in with themselves regularly. Which means they have to be more mindful of their feelings, their body, and their life circumstances on a regular basis. So they are actually practicing yoga more often! Additionally, when they are checking in and facing a cancellation policy, the are asked to act more quickly with regards to their wellbeing, rather than letting their problems go ignored. And even better, they are asked to communicate on some level that they need help in addressing a problem. Which means your next session with then can be even more beneficial to them!!!
I hope this shifts your mindset around having a clearly defined cancellation policy in place and enforcing it.* When we look at it from the client mind-set perspective, it’s easy to see how we don’t need to feel guilty about a little tough love that is ultimately about health and happiness for our clients.
*For reference, my cancellation policy is a 24-hour cancellation policy where if the client doesn’t show up, they pay the full cost of the session. The exceptions are births, deaths, and true medical emergencies in the immediate family; extreme weather-based cancellations; and the first cancellation, where I give my clients a warning/reminder. In certain cases dealing with chronic health conditions (as mentioned I work with a client who has frequent migraines and I used to work with someone with schizophrenia), I worked on a 12-hour basis that was agreed up on in advance.