Practice a sport in your lucid dreams and wake up with improved skills… it works!
Have you ever stretched your limbs into an impossible yoga pose in a lucid dream, and fully experienced your gloriously flexible spine?
Or have you tried slowing time down in your lucid dream so that you can practise a Kung Fu kick with great precision?
Perhaps you practised your dart throw instead, or livened up your nocturnal swim practice by filing a lucid dream pool with honey and diving in to test the muscle resistance?
Athletes (and regular people!) have done these things in their lucid dreams, and when they woke up, they discovered that they had actually improved their waking life sports skills.
This isn’t a lucid dreaming “boast”.
It is backed up by cutting-edge studies.
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!
The most recent of these studies is Dr Melanie Schädlich’s doctoral research at the University of Heidelberg (downloadable as a pdf at the bottom of this page). Her rich case studies of athletes showed definite improvement of waking life sports skills following lucid dreaming practice of those skills.
In lucid dreaming, we can experience highly physical sensations of movement and coordination in a fully realistic, multi-sensory world. The body remembers this when we wake up. This is thought to be due to the strengthening of the neural pathways in the brain. It means that when we next practise those movements in the waking state, we instinctively know what to do – our physical body remembers what the dream body did. It can be a fun and effective way of honing skills.
Dr Melanie Schädlich interviewed me for her doctoral study. I’m a yoga instructor who has practised yoga in my lucid dreams for decades. I talked to 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. OK, so my lucid yoga hasn’t made me as insanely flexible as I can be in my dreams (think bendier than humanly possible, with an ability to stretch limbs like rubber), but its effects are tangible in terms of flow, confidence, and harmony.
Lucid dream practice can help even with brand new movements, as I discovered many years ago when I was learning to juggle. Melanie reports my experience in her thesis:
The following quote from the author and experienced lucid dreamer Dr. Clare R. Johnson shows how lucid dream practice can be experienced and what effect it can has on waking life:
“I was learning to juggle. I’d been trying for days and the balls just kept falling all over the place. I had a dream in which I was playing around with these balls and I became lucid and was practicing doing the juggling and it was effortless. It was just this beautiful, effortless flow and everything was in balance.
As soon as I woke up, I got hold of the juggling balls and had a go and I was just so much better! I could do long sequences with only three balls okay, but soon after that I was able to add another ball and another ball. That was the dream where it clicked, it was the click – and it’s physical, the kinesthetic feeling is just so strong in lucid dreams that your body remembers it – you remember when you wake up.”
I dedicate a whole chapter of Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming to the topic of improving motor skills in lucid dreams: “Chapter 10 – Improve Physical Skills: Lucid Kickboxing, Guitar Riffs, and Scuba Diving.” Dr Melanie Schädlich’s research features strongly, as it’s my one of my all-time favourite lucid dream research studies to date.
I particularly love the lucid creativity of athletes who spar by conjuring a sparring partner out of a column of water, or who slow time down and make gravity lighter so that they can perfect a particular movement. Only in our lucid dreams can we do such awesome things – and yet these dream actions can positively impact our waking performance. The lucid dream playground morphs easily into an Olympic training ground!
Dr Melanie Schädlich’s doctoral thesis can be downloaded here as a pdf, with full permission of the author and her University.
Schädlich, M., “Motor learning in lucid dreams – quantitative and qualitative investigations.” Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Heidelberg, Germany, 2017.
Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2010). “Practicing a motor task in a lucid dream enhances subsequent performance: A pilot study.” The Sport Psychologist, 24(2), 157–167 doi:10.1123/tsp.24.2.157
Schädlich, M., Erlacher, D., & Schredl, M. (2016). „Improvement of darts performance following lucid dream practice depends on the number of distractions while rehearsing within the dream – a sleep laboratory pilot study.” Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(23), 2365-2372.