What is Abhyas Somatics?

Somatics is derived from the Greek word ‘soma’, meaning ‘the body in its wholeness’. The somatic practice developed by Navtej Johar at Studio Abhyas firstly involves a fine scanning of the body to register sensory-prompts that are constantly erupting within the body.

And then to see how these random prompts may in turn effect shape, stance, posture, feeling, breath, gaze, and subsequently affect. Recognizing and playing with the correspondence that pertains between shape and emotionality on one hand and, the psychological condition and spirituality on the other lies at the core of this practice.

The somatic practice at Abhyas draws from both yoga and Indian dance. It is modeled upon the yogic vision of the ever-changing body, a body made up of the five elements (bhootas), comprising of gunas, doshas, vayus or tendencies, and energies, each causing the body to move and shift in accordance to their specific proclivities.  And entails the effective tempering of these variablesin order to orchestrate a condition of sukha or a pleasurable epose within the body-mind.  Johar considers this condition of sensorial sukhaas a prerequisite to transformation. The sukha experience within this practice, however, is also parallelly contingent upon rasa,the aesthetic experience, that is born out of suggestion. Thus, the flow of word-imagery is integral to it.

The method involves the guidance of attention in an unhurried and uncensored manner upon the never-still body, suggesting shapes, chance-movements, awareness, emotion, and affect all to flow in tandem.  Apart from fostering wellbeing, it also hopes to allow the practitioner the felicity to craft an authentic movement vocabulary, engendering a “sensory authority” that makes the practitioner move with adhikar or autonomy and ownership.


Why Somatics?

“Somatics is the field which studies the soma: namely the body as perceived from within by first-person perception” (Thomas Hanna, 1995). Ofcourse, it is much more than that, but let us just stick to this definition for now as it is highly pertinent.

One of the main reasons that I have been invested in devising and now propose to offer an Indian somatic practice is because I strongly feel that the self has been systematically evicted out of our embodied practices of yoga and dance (I here refer to what I know best, i.e. Bharatanatyam and yoga). Both the practices have been categorically cleansed and reconstructed as per the norms of Victorian morality as well as acquired modernity not more than a century ago; and subliminally invested with an “idea” of India that is “imagined” and moralistically-spiritual, as opposed to being paradoxically or amorally spiritual.Dance of course became far more entrenched in this mechanism of nation-building as it became India’s prime object of cultural exhibition. And today yoga is following suit! If a dancer is dancing with the self-consciousness of being a cultural ambassador of India or upholding the lost laurels of an imagined/fabricated past, then the centre-of-her-initiative is already prescribed and even open to cultural policing. However, the very idea of an embodied practice such as yoga or an art form such as Bharatanatyam, in my view, is to autonomously occupy the centre-of-initiative in order to self-regulate, calibrate and distil the materiality of the body to arrive at a desired emotional, psychological or spiritual condition. In our post-industrial societies, there is a certain mechanism that operates with clockwork precision, which is forever inventing new ways of making the body available to a variety of machinations. Within more upwardly-mobile societies or social circles, these also include a variety of machinations of self-improvement that range from grooming to spiritual self-care.Today, our embodied practices of both dance and yoga have fully lent themselves to these machinations. The modern-day delusion of independence, freedom and neo- spirituality actually robs the body of autonomy and distorts its ability and right to rely upon itself.  Thus, the very practices that are designed to instil autonomy and self-hood have gotten redefined to become agencies and tools of taming, domesticating, control and dociling the body.   Both the BARPS method of asana practice and the Somatics practice being offered at Studio Abhyas attempt to challenge this mechanism through the sheer technique of self-regulatory practice.  

Studio Abhyas offers weekly classes in Somatics, including workshops and retreats, that are open to all, performers and non-performers alike.