Moving up from Beginners to General level Iyengar yoga class

Barbara Norvell has been teaching at the Iyengar Yoga Institute Maida Vale since 1999. She currently teaches a General level class on Tuesday evenings 7.45-9.15pm. At IYIMV we ask that students go to Beginners classes regularly for two years before moving up to a General class. Here Barbara considers what moving up from Beginners to General level Iyengar yoga classes means and how your teacher can help you make the progression. 

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.



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 shoulderstand 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 wellbeing.

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 the inversions in a clear way. The teacher is there to guide you. The Tuesday night General class is a new class so it is a good opportunity for any of you who are thinking of moving up to come along and give it a try. I hope you will see that progression does not always mean more intensity but gives more understanding of the practice, for the enjoyment of yoga.


BKS Iyengar practice quote - Yoga is a light which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice the brighter the flame


Barbara Norvell teaches our General class on Sundays 6.30 – 8.00pm