Navtej Johar

Photo: Berit Fischer

Navtej Johar

Special guest – BARPS session at the Radical Empathy Lab

20 June 2019

Navtej Johar is one of India’s leading male dancers and choreographers whose work traverses freely between the traditional and the contemporary. He is a scholar, yoga exponent, and a social activist; together with four other private citizens he successfully petitioned the Indian Supreme Court in 2018 for the Decriminalization of Same-Sex Relations.

His work remains consistently body-centric. It twines practice with critical theory and social action, traverses freely between the traditional and the contemporary, and rigorously engages both the philosophical and the sociological discourses of the body. Delving equally into the pre-modern Indian and Western discourses, he has been examining the “idea of the body”, the “Indian body”, in particular, and how this may influence the practice, presentation, and the history of both Yoga and Indian dance, as well as the envisioning and (un)making of the body-insensitive Indian cities. 

In this session at the Radical Empathy Lab, we will experience his in 2016 patented BARPS Yoga Method that he devised to facilitate and deepen the practice of asana practice. He describes it as follows:

BARPS is an acronym for the processes that I feel are integral to mindful asana: Bracing of body against surface. Aligning of joints. Rotation of joints to your own sense of rightness and satisfaction. Poising of breath and attention. And then finally stretching into a fulsome asana with all these conditions fulfilled. The form is integral to embodied practice, but the “rightness” of which may be synthetically experienced from the inside as opposed to being image-driven from the outside. Maintaining the integrity of form and keeping it untouched and safe from the pressures of cosmetic-form is in itself a yoga practice. One of the main factors that has led to BARPS is my firm belief in the innate intelligence of the body. This belief defies the Cartesian logic of mind-over-body, or the idealist doctrines that view Spirit as not only superior but even external to the body. To me, Spirit is a contiguous extension of the physical body. Spirit is sensitivity. A sensitivity that can be realized through embodied practice that mindfully tempers, refines, and distils the senses, along with their observation (by the self) simultaneously, or rather symbiotically. Thus, my practice is a practice of honing sensitivity.”  

Johar is a senior and long-time student of TKV Desikachar and has been teaching yoga since 1985. He is the founder of the Poorna Center for Embodied Practices, founder and artistic director of Studio Abhyas, a non-profit organisation dedicated to yoga, dance, urban activism, and the care of stray animals. Apart from offering classes in yoga and somatics, he runs regular workshops and retreats and hosts monthly public lectures on a host of subjects related to Yoga, Aesthetics and Cultural Politics. He offers a Somatics Training Course that, apart from instruction in practice, also includes the study of dance history, critical theory and philosophy.