Well you might ask: How do I emulate an octopus? Primordial Yoga is all about becoming a different kind of animal through movement and thought. But our bodies are so different you may well remark…an octopus has no bones and we are chock full from our spine to our toes. Octopuses have eight flexible, light curly highly sensitive arms, we have two… or four limbs with which to propel us through water. The octopus is also rather elastic, they have the ability to compress and squeeze their bodies through tiny spaces. They even carry two-thirds of their brains in their arms, now how different is that from us! A world apart.
Indeed different we are. However, one of our greatest gifts as humans — is our ability to emulate other animals. Consider it a talent or attribute which makes us quite different and unique among other species. How did this happen in our evolution? Well, some scientists say natural selection has favored the functional capabilities in us that promote our abilities to render more accurate efficient copying… of ourselves initially, of course, but our brain capacity has carried the talent further in our imaginings to height of embodiment level. Those cognitive abilities which may spur an organism to copy or co-join in a behaviour often is picked up by the next generation, learning from their predecessors by copying also. Certainly other species — i.e. primates, birds and cetaceans typically teach the new generations all tried and tested tricks of feeding and survival. In our imaginative human ability though, better visual perception and fine-motor tuning in our evolutionary development has kindly fostered a bit more yet in us. Add empathy and Voila! PyM!
We not only have greater neural connections between perceptual and motor structures in our brains to help us and others translate and match a visual performance by moving in a corresponding way, but more. Additionally, our complex cultures also have worked to infuse us with the imaginings of others, thereby reinforcing our innate capacities and abilities. If you have viewed the French movie which protrays the travail of Molière. In the film by that name, you may well remember the scene where Molière, played by Romain Duris, is teaching acting skills whereby he demonstrably acts out a horse. Not just any horse ~ but a spirited stallion – Incroyable!!
A kinesthetic perceptual practice such as PyM is attempting just that. Emulation and embodiment directs the sensorimotor body in motion to play a part in the formation of a concept through abstract thinking. There are limits however, without water to emulate the octopus movements it would indeed make the prospect much more difficult, if not almost impossible. Although I did see a full-grown man in New York City once bend and flex himself into a lucite box only 18 inches square, a feat well beyond what I thought possible.
What really separates us from other species is the ability to visualize and re-create entirely fictional stories to aid us in the copying, and further, perhaps the interest or motivation to “get under the skin” of another. This may even be seen as empathy. To stand in another’s shoes has always been the shortest road to changing perception and often one’s own inner perspective. So how may we emulate an octopus? Author Thomas Suddendorf would likely use what he describes as “nested scenarios”, the second of the two key features that created the human mind from his recent article Inside Our Heads, Scientific American, Sept. 2018. Thinking of creating the scenarios as an internal theatre whereby to bring situations to life by merging all the elements into a single narrative is fine. However, the imagined scenarios do not live in the immediacy of submergent water where octopuses live, they are in the head. Better to have both if possible.
Sensing bodies of all living beings causes evolutionary pathways to develop by the heightening of sensation (nerves or otherwise) to changes in the environment. An aspect of natural selection whereby the evolution to relate or interact with the immediate surroundings, other entities or forces in the nature stretches to meet those demands. So might we ~ as part of living in the immediacy of the world. Even though compared to the octopus whose two-thirds neurons exist in nerve cords in their arms, we live in our brains although tuned to the changes within from without.
Sense, flex, imagine.
Given all this…well you may ask how does one emulate an octopus? For me, while some may choose to amble along the bottom easefully perhaps aided by a current keeping one’s knees bent and arms light, in this motion you may have learn to free dive for any given amble. I choose to emulate the flight of an octopus where he/she might suddenly dash away. Head lunges forward out of coiled arms and loose legs which straighten purposefully in a jump or jet followed by glide. I do it to the side as a modified side stroke: coil, jet and glide; coil, jet and glide. Works for me with the octopus image in my mind, might work for you.