Nauli is a particular yogic “kriya” (action or deed) that exercises the abdomen and cleanses the stomach, intestines and other internal organs. It is a fundamental part of traditional yoga since it strengthens the core, allowing the yoga student to realize the flow of energy through the body. In Western yogic practices it is often ignored, which is unfortunate since it can yield rich benefits.
What is Nauli?
You may have seen yoga exponents sucking in their stomach and moving it around from side to side. You may have even been amazed by the amount of control they have over their abdominal muscles, being able to freely move them in any direction at their own will.
This sucking in of the stomach and its subsequent movement is the basis of this technique. Of course, in real practice, it is a lot more complicated than the preceding sentence would imply. One needs to have strong control over the abdominal muscles to perform it successfully and reap its benefits.
How is Nauli Performed?
Sitting down or standing up, though the standing position is preferred. This kriya essentially involves five steps:
1. Uddiyana Bandha – Don’t let the complicated name intimidate you, since the first step – called uddiyana bandha – is rather easy.
While standing up, lean slightly forward and rest your hands on your thighs, such that your back is curved forwards. Then, exhale forcefully and let out all air from your lungs. Then, contract the abdominal muscles forcibly and push them towards the back. Hold this position for a little while. This completes the first step of uddiyana bandha. Practice this step for at least a week before you proceed any further since it will afford you greater control over your abdomen muscles for further exercises.
2. Madhyana Nauli (central) – Each further step is intended to contract and isolate the abdominal muscles, first towards the center, then the left, and finally, the right. The second step, madhyana, involves contracting the right and left abdominal muscles to isolate the central muscles. If you look in the mirror, your abdominal muscles should form a straight line from the center. Practice this for a few days before moving on to the next step.
3. Vama Nauli (left) – Like the madhyana, the vama involves contracting the right and central muscles of the abdomen in order to isolate the left muscles. Hold this position for a while before moving on to the next step.
4. Dakshina Nauli (right) – This involves contracting the left and central abdominal muscles so as to free the right side muscles.
5. Once you have been practicing the above four steps for a few weeks, you can move on to the fifth and most advanced step in the practice. This involves moving the stomach muscles from right to left in a slow circular motion, and then from left to right and back again. This slow churning of the stomach not only looks impressive, but has various health benefits.
This circular motion of the abdominal muscles should be performed slowly and gradually at first, speeding up as you become more proficient.
Are There Any Risks In Practicing Nauli?
It is a relatively safe exercise and can be performed by virtually anybody without much difficulty. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t practice it more than 7-8 times in a day as the powerful vacuum created in the stomach can lead to some complications.
If you suffer with hernias or stomach ulcers then avoid doing this. Practicing can cause some discomfort and pain in the initial stages, but this usually goes away after a couple of days and shouldn’t be any cause for alarm.
What are the Health Benefits of Nauli?
This is considered a “Shatkarma” (cleansing exercise). It cleanses the stomach of toxins and relieves various digestive problems – especially indigestion and constipation. As a Shatkarma, it also gets rid of excess mucus, phlegm, and fat from the abdomen.
Add to that, the slow, churning motion massages the internal organs and tones up the abdominal muscles – the perfect way to that washboard-flat stomach!