Nauli (or Nauli Kriya) is a Yogic Abdominal Massage, a so-called Kriya exercise, in this case a practice carried out to cleanse (detoxify) and stimulate the abdominal region, which includes the abdominal muscles, digestive organs, reproductive organs, and the intestines, among others.
The exercise is part of the so-called Shatkarmas or (also called Shatkriyas), notably performed in Hatha Yoga, which are a set of purification techniques to prepare body and mind for certain Yogic exercises, such as Asanas (Yoga postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), and Dhyana (meditation and contemplation).
How to Do the Nauli Exercise?
It’s a type of self-massage practice which is typically done standing, with the feet apart and bent through the knees, while performing rotating movements (or waves) of/with the abdominal muscles. Nevertheless, it can also be done while kneeling or sitting.
The Nauli exercise consists of four distinct steps, which makeup the circular movement of the abdominal muscles:
◾ Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock): one fully exhales, while pulling the abdomen inwards and upwards under the lower part of the ribcage;
◾ Madhyana Nauli: contraction of the central abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis or the six pack);
◾ Vama Nauli: contraction of the left abdominal muscles;
◾ Daksina Nauli: contraction of the right abdominal muscles.
Mind that the rotation (or circling) of the belly muscles should be done clockwise and anticlockwise.
Benefits of Nauli Kriya
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a classical text of Hatha Yoga) it’s stated that Nauli Kriya cures from all diseases, which, of course, seems perhaps somewhat exaggerated.
Nevertheless, the exercise massages, strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles, but moreover, it stimulates, invigorates, and gives more space to the internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, the urinary tract system, intestines, pancreas, gallbladder, the prostate, and ovaries, to name some of the important internal organs.
Additionally, the blood and lymph circulation in the abdominal region and in/around the internal organs increases, which is good for the supply of nutrients, detoxification purposes, and for proper functioning of the organs.
Although a seemingly simple exercise, it’s often thought that it should be learned from an experienced Yoga teacher, because there are also some preparatory exercises one needs to master — such as the Mula Bandha and the Jalandhara Bandha — to do the exercise successfully.
In any case, the Nauli Kriya is contraindicated for pregnant women, or people with hernias, high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, or serious gastrointestinal illnesses.