by Tzivia Gover, MFA, Certified Dream Therapist

When I first started practicing yoga, after a few months of Down Dogs and Sun Salutations, I decided to move beyond yoga postures and learn about yogic philosophy. That’s when I realized I was in trouble. While my alignment on the mat was quickly improving, I realized I might be out of alignment when it came to the spiritual teachings behind the practice.

One of the first things I learned was that yoga is about waking up. To transcend the state of maya (illusion) and reach enlightenment, my yoga teachers explained, we must shake off the dream of this world. Further, our sleeping visions are merely dreams within that dream, and are of no importance. To make matters worse, I learned that the “self-realized” or enlightened person, does not dream at all, and needs but a few hours of clear and dreamless sleep each night.

The problem was that I am an active, curious, and engaged dreamer who likes to get eight or more hours of sleep each night. Not only do I remember several dreams each morning but I analyze and interpret those dreams for guidance in my life.

As a newly minted yogini, I feared that given my devotion to my dreams, I was even further from enlightenment than I’d previously thought.

On further study, however, I learned that dreams are not an obstacle on the path to yogic enlightenment. Here’s why what we dream up on the pillow can enhance our practice on the mat and beyond:

Sure, maybe one day I’ll reach enlightenment and my mind will settle into dreamless clarity, both awake and asleep. But until then, I now understand that paradoxically — and profoundly — the dreams we encounter asleep can provide the insight we need to move toward the ultimate goal of waking up into enlightenment.

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