Nauli Kriya is one of the Shatkarma mentioned in ancient yogic text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Shatkarma is basically six yogic purification techniques. Other five techniques combining Shatkarma are:
- Dhauti – Washing of food pipe
- Neti – Cleansing of Nasal cavities
- Kapalbhati – Purification of frontal brain
- Trataka – Eye strengthening exercise
- Basti – Washing of the large intestine
The regular practice of these techniques purifies the body from inside. It makes pranayama and meditation easier and effective as it prepares the body and the mind to become alert and free from fatigue.
Meaning of the “Nauli Kriya”
Sanskrit term Nauli is made up of two root words “Nau” and “li”. Nau means “boat” and li “to cling to”.
It is then joined with the term “kriya”. Kriya is an action or group of actions and efforts to reach a specific goal or target. It can be a series of events performed systematically.
For Example; Yoga Asana is a part of kriya as series of asanas are performed to attain the stability of body & mind.
Meaning: By referring these terms, in nauli kriya, abdominal muscles cling to the abdominal wall while being in continuous motion, like a boat flows in rolling waves of the ocean.
Nauli is also referred to as “lauliki karma” in Sanskrit scriptures. The word lauliki means “to move hither and tither” or “rolling and agitation” which is exactly what this technique does. It rolls, rotates and agitates the entire abdomen and the associated muscles and nerves.
What exactly is Nauli Kriya?
Nauli kriya is a cleansing technique that involves the abdominal organs and muscles moving laterally and vertically in a wave-like motion. It is well illustrated as a process of up and down movement of a boat in a stormy sea.
In Nauli Kriya, abdominal muscles especially “rectus abdominis (abs muscle) 1” is used to massage and stimulate the digestive organs e.g. the stomach, liver, spleen, urinary bladder, pancreas, gall bladder, and large and small intestine by churning the muscles of the abdomen.
The muscles of the abdomen are projected forward and then contracted continuously. This churning results in a wave-like movement in the abdomen, called nauli kriya.
It helps the body to increase “gastric fire” or “bodily fire” and eliminate toxins from the digestive tract and tones the core muscles.
Chakra Involved in Nauli
With the help of nauli kriya, a person can stimulate their Navel Chakra (manipura chakra).
The Manipura chakra is the storehouse of vital life energy present in the human body i.e. Prana. The activation of this chakra helps to get clairvoyance, declutters the mind, boosts metabolism and strengthens the immune system.
What to Do Before Performing Nauli Kriya?
Nauli is an advanced level yogic practice. Before performing it, a person should have mastery over Bandha (bodily locks) practice.
The main bandha used in Nauli kriya is “Uddiyana bandha” i.e. abdominal lock or “Jalandhara Bandha” i.e. throat lock.
1. Practice Uddiyana Bandha – The Abdominal Lock
This is the technique of lifting up abdominal muscles & then locking it at the lifted position.
To perform Uddiyana bandha,
- At the end of exhalation, suck your abdominal wall in and up.
- While maintaining suction of the abdominal wall, hold your breath.
It stretches the diaphragm and takes it to the highest possible position, which eventually locks diaphragm near the junction between the abdomen and chest. It’s called Uddiyana bandha, the abdominal lock.
The Uddiyana Bandha along with its variations is practised well before performing different yoga practices e.g. Nauli Kriya.
So, What Uddiyana Bandha Actually Does?
In Uddiyana Bandha,
- The organs of the abdomen are taken to a higher than normal position in the trunk by sucking it and holding the breath. (This creates a partial vacuum in the chest cavity.)
- This vacuum draws blood from the abdominal cavity into the chest and to the heart. It improves the circulation to the abdominal muscles.
- Also, as the abdomen is locked at a higher level, the pressure in the capillaries and veins is decreased which facilitates the blood flow and fluid exchange.
2. Practice Jalandhar Bandha – The Throat Lock
This is also known as chin lock. To perform Jalandhar Bandha,
- You need to lift the shoulders up & press the chin firmly against the chest so that the windpipe and esophagus are closed firmly.
- Concentrate on Throat or vishudhhi chakra.
- Retain the breath for as long as possible.
- When held breath long enough, raise the head and return to the starting point through long exhalation.
The practice of jalandhar bandha is suggested before practising nauli kriya as it creates flexibility in abdominal muscles. Further, this flexibility makes easier to roll abdominal muscles in the practice of nauli.
3. Practice Agnisara Kriya
Agni means “fire” and Sara means “wash” so literally it means to purify the fire energy located at the navel center.
Agnisara is a type of dhauti kriya (abdominal wash), in which abdominal wall is rapidly expanded & contracted in a very short interval of time. The exercise stimulates the immune system, increases the power of digestion and heat in the body.
Before starting the intense practice of Nauli kriya, it is suggested to master the Agnisara Kriya. It helps to wash the fire inside the body. It uses the internal energy of the body to provide vitality.
To perform it,
- Stand with the legs slightly apart, inhale deeply through the nose and exhale fully through the mouth while slightly bending forward and bending the knees.
- Rest on your both hands while placing it over thighs. The back should be straight, the head upright, allow the abdominal muscles to relax.
- Now draw the navel inwards and upwards back to the spine.
- Hold navel for a moment & then begin abdomen contraction and expansion rapidly 10-15 times while retaining the breath.
Breathe out before it becomes too uncomfortable. This is one round, complete 3 rounds. It’s very common at first for the abdominal muscles to tire quickly, this is a sure sign you have the weak fire energy.
Types of Nauli Kriya
Nauli is basically categorised into 3 types based on the position of abdominal muscle contraction.
- Vama Nauli: the contraction of the left side of the abdominal muscles.
- Dakshina Nauli: the contraction of the right side of the abdominal muscles.
- Madhya Nauli: the contraction of both sides of the abdominal muscles.
How to Do Nauli Kriya
Nauli is the practice of contracting & isolating the rectus abdominis muscles.
Rectus abdominis muscles (abs) are two long vertical muscles situated at both sides of the middle abdomen line. It ranges from the diaphragm to the pubic bone. In nauli kriya, basically these muscles are manipulated.
To Perform it, follow the following steps.
- Stand with the feet about 1-1.5 meter apart.
- Take a deep breath in through the nose and then exhale through the mouth, emptying the lungs as much as possible.
- Bend the knees slightly and lean forward, placing the palms of the hands on the thighs just above the knees. Thumb pointing inside & rest fingers point outside of the thighs to make a firm grip.
- The arms should remain straight while the weight of the upper body rests comfortably on hands above the knees.
- Perform jalandhara bandha while maintaining external breath retention or Bahir kumbhaka.
- Then perform Uddiyana bandha by sucking the lower abdomen in & above.
- Keep the eyes open and watch the abdomen.
- Now lift the right & left hand slightly off the knee one by one.
After this, follow the steps for Vama & Dakshina Nauli separately below.
1. How to Do Vama Nauli
Follow steps 1 to 7. After that follow the following steps.
To Perform Vama Nauli,
- Lift right hand slightly off the knee so that upper body weight transfer over the left hand & from the left hand to the left knee.
NOTE: Don’t lean your body to the left side while transferring weight over the left hand.
- This action of transferring weight over the left hand to the knee would automatically isolate left rectus abdominis muscles (left abs).
NOTE: The isolation of left abs muscles is illustrated with a cavity in the right side and a muscle protrusion on the left side.
- Hold the same position of muscles for a few seconds. It’s called Vama nauli.
- Now release Uddiyana bandha first & then Jalandhar bandha by raising the head up slowly. Then stand in an upright position, take a few deep breaths before the next round.
2. How to Do Dakshina Nauli
After completing the Vama nauli, isolate the right rectus abdominis muscles (right abs). It’s called Dakshina Nauli.
Steps to perform dakshina nauli is exactly opposite as steps to perform Vama nauli. Here weight is transferred over the right hand, which makes muscle protrusion on the right side & cavity on the left side.
3. How to Do Madhya Nauli
In Madhya nauli, basically you have to contract both (left & right) rectus abdominis (abs muscles) to the centre navel line.
To perform it, again steps 1 to 7 (described in “how to perform nauli”) are the same. After that follow the following steps.
- Come in the position of Vama or Dakshina Nauli. Let say, you are starting with Vama nauli.
- Now start rolling your left abs muscle (which actually was isolated at left side till now) to the right side but before it reaches the opposite side, hold it in the middle.
- Rolling of abs muscles is achieved by shifting the weight gradually from left side to right side.
- Once you have rolled left isolated muscles to the centre, then you can see both sides of the centre would have cavity & muscle protrusion on the centre. It’s the Madhya Nauli position.
- Hold this position for a few seconds. Then release the Uddiyana bandha & Jalandhar bandha one by one.
Rolling abs muscles for madhya nauli needs time to perfect so in the beginning, try with vama or dakshina nauli only.
4. Abdominal Rotation or Churning in Nauli
After mastering the above-mentioned stages of Madhya, Vama and Dakshina nauli, the procedure of churning or rotating the abdomen should be attempted.
- Practice Vama nauli on the left side, then rotate the muscles to the right, practising Dakshina nauli, and back to the left, vama nauli.
- Continue rotating the muscles from side to side. This process is known as churning.
- Start by practising 3 consecutive rotations, then release the abdominal contraction.
- Next start with Dakshina nauli first, this time rotating the muscles from right to left, then left to right, thrice consecutively.
- Finally, perform Madhya nauli, isolating the muscles at the centre.
- Raise the head and return to the upright position. Inhale slowly and deeply, allowing the abdomen to expand.
- This marks the end of one round and it can be continued after relaxing in an upright position until the heartbeat returns to normal.
- The practice of agnisara kriya and uddiyana bandha should be mastered before starting the practice of Nauli kriya.
- When nauli kriya has been perfected in standing position, it may be practiced in siddha yoni asana.
Time to Practice & Duration of Nauli
Nauli should be practised only when the stomach is completely empty, at least 5 to 6 hours after the meals if empty stomach practice is not possible.
The best time to practice is early in the morning before any food or drink is taken.
- A beginner should start with Vama and Dakshina nauli one after other. In the beginning, 3 rounds each side.
- After 2 weeks of practice of Vama & Dakshina nauli, a beginner can start with five rounds of Madhya Nauli and work up to 10 rounds within a week.
- Then one can start the abdominal churning or rotation with 5-10 rounds and slowly increase up to 25 rotations over a period of months.
As you are advised to avoid straining, it is better to increase rounds slowly with practice as more control is gained over the muscles with time.
Benefits of Nauli
- Nauli kriya massages and tones the entire abdominal area, including the muscles, nerves, intestines, reproductive, urinary and excretory organs.
- It is an exercise of the internal organs such as the stomach, liver, spleen, urinary bladder, pancreas, gall bladder, and large and small intestine.
- It helps the body to increase gastric fire and eliminate toxic materials from the digestive tract.
- This kriya generates heat in the body and stimulates appetite, digestion, assimilation, absorption, and excretion. Nauli also considered panacea practice to lose the belly fat or weight loss as it directly works on the extra fat present in abdominal muscles.
- Nauli builds the core strength as it focuses on the “rectus abdominis” muscle which is responsible for the six-packs.
- It activates the Manipura chakra, “the storehouse of prana” and improves mental efficiency.
- Nauli kriya is also helpful in strengthening the immune system.
- Nauli Kriya gives you power and vigour by harmonizing the flow of energy in the body.
A study 2 reported that the yogic kriyas such as nauli kriya or agnisara kriya are helpful in the treatment of Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
- Nauli Kriya is a sensitive technique and should only be performed under a proper guide or teacher.
- If you feel any pain or discomfort in the abdomen during nauli kriya, you should immediately stop the kriya. With more awareness and less and controlled force try again the next day.
- Nauli Kriya should not be attempted by people suffering from heart disease, hypertension, hernia, high blood pressure, abdominal pain, gallstones, acute peptic ulcer, constipation.
- Nauli Kriya should be avoided post-surgery, especially after abdominal surgery.
- The pregnant woman should not practice or try to do nauli kriya.
Yoga is an ancient science of alternative medicine that aims very specifically on the preventive aspects of a disease. It is also effective in curing diseases when used as an adjuvant to the basic practice of medicine. Nauli Kriya is one of the most important yogic kriyas that comes under shatkarma.
So, the regular practice of Nauli Kriya improves digestion and avoids the disorder arising in the abdominal area.
Did you learn something from this article? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
If you are a beginner in Nauli practice or you are planning to do it on your next yoga session. Do it under the guidance of an expert. Leave your comment below about your experience of Nauli.
- Rectus abdominis muscle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectus_abdominis_muscle
- Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734640/