Ever tried swimming through honey? Or slowing time down so you can practise a kick with great precision and focus? Or doing ‘impossible’ yoga poses?
These are just a few of the amazing things athletes have done in their lucid dreams.
And the best thing about it? When they woke up they found they had actually improved their waking life sports skills.
This isn’t just another lucid dreaming ‘boast’. The improvement of motor skills in lucid dreams is a scientifically researched phenomenon. A study by Daniel Erlacher and Tadas Stumbrys got people to practise throwing a coin into a pot while awake, and then in a lucid dream. Those who practised in the lucid dream state had a statistically significant improvement of their subsequent waking performance. The group who showed the greatest improvement were those who practised while awake, but the study shows that it’s well worth practising in our sleep: lucid dream practice is definitely better than no practice!
More strong proof of the usefulness of lucid dreaming in improving sports skills comes from Melanie Schädlich’s doctoral research into practising motor skills in lucid dreams. Her case studies of athletes showed definite improvement of waking life sports skills following lucid dreaming practice of those skills. It’s her study that has the inspiring example of athletics trainer and swimmer Mark Hettmanczyk, who swam through sweets, honey and bubbles in his lucid dreams to hone his swim strokes by trying out different resistances. His waking life swim skills improved so much that he got the highest possible mark.
Melanie Schädlich interviewed me for her doctoral study as I have practised yoga in my lucid dreams for decades. I told her about the similarity between the feel of yoga energy flowing through the physical body, and the tingling warm energy of the lucid dream body. I shared examples of doing yoga in lucid dreams, and how these dreams helped to harmonise my waking life practice.
In lucid dreaming, you can experience physical sensations of movement and coordination in a fully realistic, multi-sensory world. The body remembers this when you wake up. This is thought to be due to the strengthening of the neural pathways in the brain. It means that when you next practise those movements in the waking state, you instinctively know what to do – your physical body remembers what the dream body did. It can be a fun and effective way of honing skills.
Improve skills in lucid dreams
- Recall your intention to practise a particular physical skill: a dance step, origami, squat thrusts, tai chi. As soon as you get lucid, stabilise the dream and then go for it.
- Slow time down or speed it up. Shift-shape into the body of your most admired athlete. Calm your breath, focus your mind, and let your practice flourish.
- Be imaginative and let the lucid dream help with original ways of practising your chosen skill: gym rolls while sky-diving? Tango steps while surfing giant waves? Go for it!
- Practise a foreign language when you get lucid. Doing this helped me do better than I could have imagined in my French degree: while the other undergrads slept, I was revising in my lucid dreams
Solving problems in lucid dreams
Lucid dreaming can also help with solving problems. One of my favourite lucid dream examples comes from Stephen LaBerge & Howard Rheingold’s 1990 book, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. There’s a computer programmer who meets Einstein in his lucid dreams and works on computer code with him:
I’m sitting with Einstein, white bushy hair… he and I are good friends. We do some flowcharts on a blackboard. Once we think we’ve come up with a good one, we laugh… I look at the code and say to myself, ‘I want to remember this when I wake up’. I concentrate very hard on the blackboard and wake up… I take the code to work and usually it is 99% accurate.
During my PhD research into lucid dreaming and creativity, lucid dreams helped me to solve many different problems as I wrote my novel, Breathing in Colour. Problems of plot development, character development, idea generation, and that elusive yet essential element: voice. A lucid dream helped me to realise that my main character, Mia, had synaesthesia, where sound, taste, smell and touch are mingled in fascinating combinations. I practised experiencing synaesthesia in my lucid dreams by simply asking the dream for help with this. These dreams helped me to write in multi-sensory language I’d never used before. I’d found Mia’s voice and the novel flowed.
Solve problems in lucid dreams
- Incubate a problem-solving dream before you drop off to sleep. Whether it’s a relationship problem or a maths problem, visualise yourself receiving help in your dreams and knowing the solution when you wake up. Often thinking about it in this positive way before sleeping either results in a problem-solving nonlucid dream, or dream lucidity.
- Ask the dream for help once you become lucid. Shout your question into the dream sky, or decide that you’ll find the solution to your problem right there, behind that dream tree, or through that dream window. Then go there and see what (or who) you find.
- Once you’ve found what appears to be an answer to your problem in a lucid dream, it’s a good plan to wake yourself up before you lose lucidity so that you can note it down in perfect detail.