What is Dream Yoga?
It is estimated that we spend as much as 3 hours per night dreaming – this means if we live to be 70 old, we will have spent around 9 years of this time exploring the dream world. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use at least some of this time to do stuff that could help us in our waking life? This is what dream yoga about – it is a Buddhist practice where the aim is to ‘wake up to reality’.
Dream Yoga or Lucid Dreaming?
The term ‘Lucid dreaming’ was first used in 1913 by the psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden to describe the phenomenon of becoming conscious in a dream (i.e. becoming aware that you are dreaming while still asleep). For a long time, western sleep experts believed lucid dreaming was just people dreaming they had been awake, but in 1980s, laboratory tests by Stephen LaBerge confirmed it is possible to be conscious in dreams (e.g. he was able to communicate from the dream state using eye movements).
Buddhists were exploring lucidity in dreams long before the term ‘lucid dreaming’ was invented (since at least 150 CE). Practitioners of dream yoga use special techniques for gaining and maintaining lucidity in dreams, so they can then use their nighttime explorations to gain an understanding of the mind. Dream yoga can be used alongside meditation to gain insights, and it can eventually lead to ‘waking up’ to reality.
The Path of Dream Yoga
Lucid dreaming has become incredibly popular in recent years, and there are now many books, courses, YouTube videos, online communities, and websites devoted to this topic – there are also smartphone apps and other technology that claim to help you achieve lucidity in dreams. For most people, lucid dreaming is a type of entertainment where they get to fly, visit different worlds, travel through time, or spend time with the man/woman of their fantasies.
Being entertained is nice, but lucid dreaming can also be an effective spiritual practice – especially if you begin to see connections between your dreams and your waking reality. The path of dream yoga includes completely a number of tasks such as:
• Walking through walls
• Changing objects (e.g. turning a chair into a dog)
• Facing your fears
• Talking to spiritually advanced dream characters
How to Become Lucid in Dreams
There are many techniques that can increase the likelihood of you becoming lucid in a dream. One popular approach is to use ‘reality checks’ – this is where you repeatedly ask yourself during the day ‘am I dreaming?’ Reality checks work because you get into the habit of questioning your wakefulness, and this carries over into the dream state.
Traditional dream yoga utilizes almost the opposite approach to reality checks. Instead of asking if you are awake, you keep reminding yourself that ‘life is like a dream’. This is not to question the ‘realness’ of the external world, but to remind us that what we are seeing is the brain’s interpretation of the external world.
Lucid dreaming is also a side-effect of regular meditation, so if you want to enjoy these nighttime adventures, you better get meditating
The Benefits of Lucid Dreaming for People in Recovery
• You can practice dealing with difficult situations
• You can boost your creativity
• Get in touch with your unconscious mind
• Speak to dead relatives (even if these are just dream characters, it can still be healing)
• Practice skills you want to develop in real life
• Overcome fears and phobias
• Have the time of your life without using drugs
• Abstaining from alcohol or drugs in dreams can strengthen your recovery
Resources for Learning about Dream Yoga and Lucid Dreaming
If you are interested in learning more about dream yoga, you can check out some of these free lectures by B. Alan Wallace – part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, and part seven