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Nauli is one of the kriyas or shatkarma (cleaning exercises) from yoga. The exercise is claimed to serve the cleaning of the abdominal region - digestive organs, small intestine- and is based on a massage of the internal belly organs by a circular movement of the abdominal muscles.
Nauli is an exercise of the classical hatha yoga but is not taught often in yoga schools. It had been considered confidential for a long time andintended only for initiates. Nauli is considered difficult exercise, which can be learned only with perseverance and patience.
Some exercises from yogic gymnastics are so effective that they are often used by athletes of various sports. It is believed that nauli practice improves heart health, function of the blood vessels, digestive and reproductive system. It provides a natural deep massage of all internal organs and strengthens core muscles.
The Muscles Used
The nauli exercise targets the abdominal rectus muscles that are called "nala" in Sanskrit and are shaped like a pair of dense muscle straps. They run down the stomach and serve to protect the organs of the abdominal cavity. The muscles start near the middle of the sternum and attach to the pubic bone. These muscles perform wavy movements during nauli.
The exercise is not recommended for the following individuals:
- children until puberty;
- women during their period, pregnancy, and within a few months after childbirth;
- people with acute gastrointestinal diseases (ulcer, cancer, etc.);
- people after recent abdominal surgery;
- tuberculosis patients;
- hypertensive patients and people with heart problems;
- people having hernia.
The proper exercise technique can be mastered due to long practice. There are four variations, which are gradually learned one after another:
- Madhyana nauli: static practice that involves isolated contraction of both left and right sides of the abdomen and arrangement of the central muscles in a vertical line.
- Daksina nauli: the isolated contraction of the right rectus abdominis muscle, or left-to-right movement of the muscles.
- Vama nauli: the isolated contraction of the left part of the central muscles of the abdomen, or right-to-left wavy clockwise movement.
- Nauli kriya: the most advanced variation of practice that implies the circular movement of the central muscles of the abdomen.
According to the yogis, the first step to take when learning to perform nauli is Uddiyana-Bandha. One needs to sit down and get into a comfortable position while keeping the back straight. Then a deep breath is taken, and after a quick exhale, the stomach is pulled in and up. The breath is held for at least 10–20 seconds and then the abdominal muscles are relaxed. Three breathing cycles with two-minute breaks between them are enough for the beginning.
The nauli technique can be mastered after the breath can be held for 20 seconds or more in Uddiyana-Bandha. Both techniques should be performed before meal in the morning and in case of absence of any problems in the functioning of internal organs.
Nauli is generally done standing but it is possible to do it in other positions like lotus, whereby the trunk is bent forward and is supported by the hands at the thighs. After a complete breath out the entire belly is strongly brought in and then the middle belly muscle is contracted and moved in a circle.
The practice should be gradually mastered from the easiest variation to the hardest one, step by step, without skipping the stages.
Mastering Madhyama nauli
The starting position is standing with feet shoulder-width apart and torso slightly bent forward, hands on the thighs just above the knees. After complete exhale, the stomach is pulled in (Uddiyana-Bandha). The palms of the hands are pressed against the thighs. One should try to isolate the abdominal muscles and force them towards the center, so that the middle abs protruded forward.
The position should be held until the next inhale is needed. In a few minutes, once the breath is calm and steady, the exercise is repeated.
Practicing Dakshina and Vama nauli
After mastering Madhyama nauli, one can proceed to learning the right-and left-side exercise variations.
One should start by getting into a comfortable semi-squatting position, with the feet 50–100 cm apart, hands on the thighs just above the knees. After a slow inhale through nose and a powerful breath out through mouth, the breath is held by locking the throat muscles. The stomach is pulled in to perform Uddiyana-Bandha.
The bodyweight is shifted to the right leg and the left palm is lifted up. It helps push the right rectus abdominis muscles to the front and create a wavy movement. Then, Uddiyana-Bandha is slowly released. After few deep breaths, the same should be done for the other side.
Once the static variation of the exercise is mastered, one can try to move the wave across the stomach and create the rolling movement of the abdominal muscles. For this, the hands are alternately pressed and released. Three waves within one set are enough for the beginners. The practice should be finished with a right-to-left wave, due to the anatomical structure of the human body (the direction of the food movement in the gut).
In the course of mastering nauli practice, one can use more comfortable positions, such as kneeling with the buttocks on the heels, or sitting in a cross-legged pose.
During the breathing cycle, it is important to keep the back straight and avoid moving the torso to the sides.
The number of reps within the set and breath-holding time should be gradually increased.
The number of the waves in dynamic nauli can be also increased: the advanced yogis can perform 108 wavy movements within one breathing cycle. The number of movements to the left and to the right in dynamic variation should be equal.
Nauli is the most powerful cleansing technique that enhances the effectiveness of any other yoga practice.
In yoga, nauli generally recommended for the recovery of constipation. The exercise may clean the small intestine and eliminate digesting problems.
A soft massage of the internal organs is provided due to the rotational movements of the abdominal muscles, besides, it stimulates the excretory and reproductive system. It helps get rid of the functional bowel disorders, excessive stomach acid, hormonal disorders, and even depression.
Nauli practice is recommended for the diabetic patients, because this yoga technique helps improve the pancreatic function.
Yogis believe that regular nauli practice helps not only strengthen the spirit and get rid of anxiety and stress, but also get healthier and happier.
- Mallinson, James; Singleton, Mark (2017). Roots of Yoga. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-241-25304-5. OCLC 928480104.
- Sturgess, Stephen (2004). The Yoga Book: A Practical Guide to Self-realization. Watkins. ISBN 978-1-85230-972-5.
- Le Yoga Guide Complet et Progressif, Centre Silvananda, Robert Lafond 1995, page 155 ISBN 2702899471
- Translated from German Wikipedia
- Yoga Journal