Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Asana and movement in dreams

In her latest post, Yyogini wrote a very detailed and thoughtful review of the movie Inception (if you haven't seen it, you really should), and shares her thoughts about how the themes in the movie relate to the yoga practice.

The movie revolves around a group of "dream experts" who try to implant or incept certain ideas into people's subconscious minds by constructing elaborate dreams and getting people into these dreams, so that they will act on these ideas and bring about certain desired outcomes after they wake up. In the movie, the group (led by Leonardo Dicaprio's character) constructs an elaborate multi-layered dream, and attempts to implant certain ideas into the subconscious mind of an heir to a communications empire by getting him into this dream.

But the purpose of this post is not to review this movie (read Yyogini's review; it's much better). What I want to explore here is the idea of implanting or incepting ideas in our subconscious minds, especially as it pertains to an asana or movement practice. Have you ever had dreams in which you were doing asanas or some kind of movement, and the results were different in the dream than it was in real life? Actually, Claudia wrote a post a few months ago about this subject. I've had many dreams in which I was doing asana or some kind of movement practice, and the results were very different from what it was in waking life. Here are a few of them:

(1) I've had dreams in which I was in headstand, but somehow, one of my legs wouldn't straighten, no matter how hard I tried. It almost feels like the leg is crippled or something. And then I woke up, and realized that I was sleeping on my side, and the leg in question was pinned beneath my upper leg, so that no matter how much muscular effort I made, it couldn't straighten!

(2) A few years ago, I had this dream where I was in this yoga workshop taught by a senior Iyengar teacher (I won't tell you who she is :-)) We were all sitting on chairs arranged in a circle around the room, and she was in the center of the circle. She turned to me, and asked me to put my leg behind my leg. I did, and strangely, the entire leg felt like it was made of jelly; there was no resistance at all. It felt like all the bones and tendons in the leg had suddenly disappeared! It totally creeped me out. (Full disclosure: At that time, I could put my leg behind my head in waking life, but there was always resistance from the hip muscles and the hamstring, not to mention the resistance incurred by propping my neck against my leg.)

(3) A couple of years ago, I had this dream where I was at a dinner party. I was sitting at a table, across from a friend. We were chatting, when he suddenly laughed and asked me, "Do you think it's possible that we might be in a dream?" And that was when I realized that I was dreaming! I suddenly had this strong desire to get out of the dream. For some reason, I knew that if I did a backbend right there and then in the dream, I would wake up. Still sitting at the table, I arched all the way back. Just before my hands touched the ground (I really don't know how this is physically possible, because I was sitting in a chair with a back!), I woke up!

(4) This one is my favorite. I dreamt that I was at this big sports stadium, preparing to take part in a Tae Kwon Do tournament (Full disclosure: I studied TKD for a number of years in my teens.). I did a jump, and realized that I could stay airborne for a really long time before coming back down. So I jumped again. This time, I kicked the air behind me while still airborne, and discovered that I could propel myself forward in the air by doing so. I swept the air forcefully in front of me, and discovered that doing so propelled my body forward as well. Basically, I realized that I could "swim" in the air by manipulating the air currents in this way. I just "swam" higher and higher, and before I knew it, I was "swimming" high up over the city. Pretty cool, eh? The whole thing felt so real that for the first couple of minutes after I woke up from the dream, I actually believed that there was a way to "swim" in the air!

(5) I've also had more than a few dreams in which I floated effortlessly into handstand from a sitting position or from bakasana (I'm still working on these in waking life).

Dreams involving movement and asana are so fascinating, aren't they? Do you have dreams like these? If you have any interpretations of such dreams, I would love to hear them too. 



  1. Dear Nobel
    During the years that I swam daily, I dreamt a lot about flying in the air with swimming strokes. That's sort of like your asana moves dreams, isn't it?
    I saw that movie inception, courtesy of my employer. It was enjoyable if crazy.

  2. Yes, Arturo, wouldn't it be really cool if we can fly by swimming in the air? Sometimes I wonder what it would take to get our body density to be less than the density of air, so that this can be possible... Well, I'm just fantasizing...

  3. Thanks so much for your promotion of my blog Nobel!

    It looks like you dream about things you think about a lot in your waking life (eg. taekwando and yoga asanas). I haven't really had dreams about those yet (does that mean I haven't done enough yoga yet??). I do fly a lot and swim in air in my dreams though.

    #3: Did you secretly want to show off your back bending skill at that dinner party? ;)

  4. You're quite welcome, Yyogini. Your blog posts are very interesting and insightful, and more people should know more about them.

    Yes, I do dream a lot about yoga and TKD; especially yoga, but I also used to be a TKD freak, so I guess that carries over into my adult life too.

    #3: Interesting idea. I wasn't consciously trying to show off my back-bending skill, but maybe I had that desire on a subconscious level?