Barbara Norvell has been teaching Iyengar yoga since 1999. Here she shares her thoughts on how to decide when to move up from a Beginners Level class to General Level. At Iyengar Yoga London we ask that students go to Beginners classes regularly for two years before moving up to a General class. Some students are keen to move up quickly while for others the prospect can be a little daunting. We hope this will help you decide when the right time is for you.

Barbara Norvell Iyengar yoga teacher in Ustrasana

Recently one of my Beginners classes has become a General class. This change has given me a fresh opportunity to look again at how the levels are different and how students progress through our system. It makes me realise how important the Beginners classes are in providing a good foundation for learning. As you progress to a new level your understanding of the earlier poses becomes more apparent and the practice takes on a deeper meaning.

Guruji – BKS Iyengar – and his daughter, Geetaji, have always been very clear about the stages of progression of practice and how poses link with each other like building blocks. Each syllabus has a clear list of poses which create the basis of practice at whatever stage you are at.

“It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.”
Patanjali Yoga Sutras

In a Beginners class the emphasis is on the standing poses which increase steadiness, strength and stamina. It gives a foundation in which you start the exploration of alignment. You are introduced to the poses on the Introductory syllabus and you learn how to do shoulder stand gradually to build up your strength so that you can hold the pose for longer. Or if you suffer from certain injuries learning what the established alternatives are to shoulderstand.

General Level Iyengar yoga poses

At General level the poses will be taken from the Introductory and Intermediate syllabuses. The Introductory poses will be held for longer and explored in more detail. The Intermediate poses will help you understand and perform the Beginner poses better. Inverted poses such as headstand will be introduced. You will be taught to stay in shoulder stand and headstand for some minutes but always within your capability. With the introduction of additional postures and a greater emphasis on moving deeper into each posture these classes help you go further on your yoga journey. There is also a chance to learn the restorative poses and an introduction to some basic pranayama techniques both of which are essential for well-being.

Barbara Norvell Iyengar yoga teacher adjusts a student in Supta Virasana

Are you ready to move up to General Iyengar yoga classes?

The question of whether you are ready to move up to a General class may have occurred to you, but perhaps you are not clear about what General level might be like. Is it full of people who already know what they are doing? Will the teacher expect me to know the names of the poses? Should I already be practising headstand? General classes are designed to help you further your practice by exploring the poses in greater depth and introducing inversions in a clear way. The teacher is there to guide you. If you have been going to a Beginners class regularly for two years or more and feel curious about moving up it may be a good time to try your first General Level class. If you have any concerns speak to your regular teacher.

We have a workshop for Beginners students who would like to move up to General Level this Easter.

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