Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
‘Lower the shoulders. Revolve the stomach left and right with the speed of a strong whirlpool. This is called Nauli by the masters. This Nauli is the crown of Hatha practices. It kindles a weak gastric fire, restores the digestion, always brings happiness, and dries up all defects and diseases’ – From the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ translation by Brian Dana Akers
Nauli is one of the Karma belonging to the category of Shad Karma or Shat Karma, a group of six activities or procedures oriented towards cleansing the body and strengthening it. It is proposed and advocated by Hatha Yoga, a type of Yoga which aims at fortification of physical health and fitness.
Laukiki Yoga (Gheranda Samhita)
Nauli means boat shaped or elongated boat shaped or tubular shape. In this Kriya or activity the client needs to make a tubular shape in the middle of the belly or abdomen while pushing the abdomen backwards (pulling the belly inwards towards the spine) while bending forwards.
The term Nauli is made up of two root terms. Nau means ‘boat’ and Li means ‘to hold on, to grasp, to adhere to’. The combined term indicates the technique with which the activity is done in Nauli. In this, the abdominal organs have to be moved vertically and transversally, like the movement of a wave. The undulating movement of a boat or ship on an agitated sea also refers to the method or manner in which the tummy muscles rolls while performing this technique in Nauli Kriya.
According to Gheranda Samhita, Nauli Kriya is called Laukiki Yoga.
‘Move forcibly the stomach and intestines from one side to the other. This is Laukiki Yoga. It destroys all the diseases and amplifies the digestive fire’ – Ref Gheranda Samhita, Sutra 52
Nauli Kriya or Nauli Karma or simply Nauli is a method of abdominal massage as proposed by Hatha Yoga. Nouli Karma is to provide exercise to the abdominal muscles and abdominal viscera.
Regular practice of Nauli Karma forms the basis of success of Vasti Karma. This means to tell that constant practice of Nauli Karma helps in administering Vasti Karma.
Method of Doing Nauli
Nauli Karma is practiced in a state of Uddeyaana Bandha. In this type of Bandha, the abdomen along with its viscera (organs) is pulled backwards (inwards) towards the back or spine. By contracting the abdomen and pulling it backwards, the abdominal muscles are activated and movements are induced. This is called Nouli Karma.
- Stand on your feet keeping them about one foot apart.
- Bend forwards and place your hands on your knees. Perform Uddiyan Banda.
- For first few days exhale your breath and do Kumbhaka while practicing Uddiyana Banda in this position. Push the abdomen inwards towards the spine as much as possible.
- Gradually transfer a part of your body weight on to your hands and then on to your knees.
- Keep your neck and shoulders straight
- Exhale through nostrils. Bend your neck downwards. Leave your belly and belly muscles loose while stretching it a little towards your chest. In the middle of your abdomen, try to make a tubular shape while drawing the abdomen and viscera inwards.
- This tubular shape of the abdomen is called Nauli (elongated boat shaped).
- Regular practice enables you to do this perfectly. Take caution to take light food and keep your stomach clean.
Movement of Nauli
Press your right hand over the nauli. The Nauli is seen to be moving towards the left of your stomach. Similarly if the left hand is pressed, the Nauli will move towards right. Thus, the Nauli can be moved from left to right and from right to left. Once you have perfect practice try to move the Nauli from right to left and left to right with speed, in quick succession.
Note that all Kriyas (activities) of Nauli should be performed after exhaling and in Bahya Kumbhaka.
Types and methods
Types of Nauli and Methods of doing them
There is a pair of muscles found on the front of your abdomen running vertically and parallel from your lower part of ribs to the pubic region at the bottom. They are exactly one beside the other and form the abs muscle of the abdomen. They are called as Rectus abdominis muscles. In Nauli Kriya, these muscles are made taut and isolated so as to make them visible distinctly away from the rest of the abdomen. The art of perfecting the separation of these abs forms the key for successful practice of Nauli. There are basically 3 types of Nauli or 3 types in which it is practiced depending on the direction in which these muscles are isolated and placed. They are as mentioned below –
When the muscles (both, right and left) are isolated and concentrated to the center, it is called Madhya Nauli or Central Nauli. The muscles are seen predominantly stand out on the center of the abdomen.
How to do?
- Stand by keeping your feet apart with knees bent and your hands placed on your thighs
- Take deep breath. Force the breath out with hissing sound.
- Contract your abdomen inwards and upwards, towards the chest (Uddiyana Bandha). For performing all the Nauli Kriyas, Uddiyana Bandha is considered as the basic posture.
- Hold the breath
- Try to isolate the two Rectus muscles forcing them towards the center of the abdomen. Keep the muscles isolated at the center. At this moment, the breath has been stopped with the air taken out of the lungs (Bahya Kumbhaka). Concentrate and hold the muscles in position at the center of the abdomen for at least few seconds. Isolating the abs muscles seem to be difficult at the beginning, you will gradually perfect the art of doing it as you practice it.
- Take the breath in, release the muscles from the position
- Come back to the standing position
- Take deep breaths for few times before you attempt doing it again
- Restart the procedure and do it few times. Decide and monitor your capacity before doing it.
When the left rectus muscle is isolated and kept to the left, it is called Vama Nauli or Left Nauli. The muscle is seen predominantly stand out on the left of the abdomen.
How to do?
- Take the same stance as explained in Madhya Nauli. Do all the steps until Uddiyana Bandha posture and holding your breath.
- After breathing out, perform Bahya Kumbhaka.
- In Vama Nauli, only the left Rectus abdominis muscle is isolated and pushed to the front. This will leave a cavity on the right side of the abdomen while the muscle stands protruded on the left side.
- Maintain this position for few seconds.
- Breathe in and release the muscles and position
- Come back to the standing position
- Take few deep breaths
- Repeat the procedure according to your capacity
When the right rectus muscle is isolated and kept to the right, it is called Dakshina Nauli or Right Nauli. The muscle is seen predominantly stand out on the right of the abdomen.
How to do?
The procedure will be the same as in Vama Nauli or Left Nauli. The difference is that in Dakshina Nauli, the right Rectus abdominis muscle is isolated and fixed instead of left Rectus Abdominis muscle.
Rotating the abdominal muscles
Apart from the 3 types of mentioned above, Nauli Kriya also includes rotation of abdominal muscles. One can try rotating the Rectus abdominis muscles in the clockwise direction. After doing it in clockwise direction, the rotation of muscles should be tried and done in anti-clockwise direction. This appears as churning motion of the abs muscles from left to right and then from right to the left direction. This is indeed a very powerful procedure or technique to massage the abdominal muscles in a natural way and motivate them towards proper functioning. This also tones up the abdominal muscles. The organs including stomach, spleen, liver, kidneys, intestines, pancreas etc are massaged to perfection, naturally, without any instrument, medicine or equipments. If rotation of abs muscles is regularly practiced, it ensures good health to all these organs and in turn promises good overall functioning of the body and comprehensive health.
Time and rules of practice
What is the best time to do Nauli and what are the rules for practice?
Like any other procedure which needs to be learned under guidance, Nauli too should be learnt and practiced in the presence of a qualified and experienced Yoga instructor.
The best time to practice Nauli is early in the morning when the stomach and bowels are empty. One should have voided bowel and bladder before starting Nauli. After a heavy meal, one should wait for at least 5-6 hours before practicing Nauli.
Overdoing Nauli may cause indigestion and diarrhea; therefore caution should be take to determine the quantity of Nauli Kriya to be done on individual basis, the Yoga tutors will be the best people to decide this based on your constitution. If you are doing Nauli independently at home and if you develop complications like indigestion or loose motions discontinue the practice for few days. You may start it again after having discussed and taking the guidance of your Yoga teacher.
Benefits of Nauli Karma
- It is a powerful technique which massages all the organs in the abdomen including the stomach, the intestines, the liver and spleen, the urinary bladder, the gall bladder and pancreas. This kriya helps in maintaining perfect health of these organs since they are massaged and motivated to work better every time one does Nauli Karma.
- Nauli Kriya not only strengthens and fortifies the abdominal muscles; it also helps enhance blood supply to the abdominal viscera and also activates the nervous plexus of the abdomen and their nerve endings.
- Nauli Kriya helps in removing the impurities and toxins of the intestines and detoxifies them.
- It fine tunes the digestive system and keeps it healthy; it has a regulating and stimulation effect on the entire digestive system.
- Nauli accelerates the gastric secretions which in turn aid in good digestion.
- It activates and motivates the abdominal visceral organs and keeps them active and going
- Following Nauli Karma, the stomach remains light and the appetite gets increased. The digestion also gets better.
- Nauli removes disorders of Vata, Pitta and Kapha
- It expels excessively accumulated phlegm, mucus or fat which are root sources of many diseases
- Nauli is a good remedy for constipation, obesity and dyspepsia
- Nauli is helpful for curing heartburn and skin disease (acne)
- Nauli promotes the functioning and health of kidneys
- The liver, spleen and other glands of the body are positively influenced by Nauli Kriya
- It fine tunes the activities of genital (sexual) organs and keeps those organs anatomically fit and functionally healthy
- Heart is subjected to good quantum of massage during Nauli kriya. Thus Nauli constitutes one of the best act of protections against heart ailments, mainly heart attack.
- Nauli helps the lungs regain and maintain its elasticity, owing to the profound inhalations and exhalations you do while doing Nauli procedure
- It helps in getting rid of menstrual irregularities in women
- It wards of the weakness of the genital system
- It regulates the blood pressure
- Nauli has preventive effect against diabetes
- Nauli provides immunity towards and helps in preventing hernia, appendicitis, ulcer, constipation, indigestion, ulcer etc
- Nauli Kriya is often said to be Sarva Roga Hara (remedy for all diseases)
- Nauli makes a man physically and mentally alert, strong and fit
Caution and Contraindication
Nauli kriya should either not be done or be done cautiously in the below mentioned conditions. In either case it is important to take the advice of expert Yoga tutor or your physician before taking on to Nauli Karma. The contraindications for Nauli are –
- Person aged more than 40 years of age
- Patients suffering from acute or chronic appendicitis
- Abdominal disorders caused by inflammation
- Patients suffering from sprue
- Those suffering from abdominal or intestinal tuberculosis
- Patients suffering from high blood pressure
- In presence of kidney stones or gallstones
- Children less than 14 years of age
- After taking stomach full food
Just before Finish
In this article I have put forth a detailed explanation of Nauli Karma which is one of the important procedures of Shat Karma as explained by Hatha Yoga.
‘Sitting on the toes with heels raised above the ground, and the palms resting on the ground, and in this bent posture the belly is moved forcibly from left to right, just as in vomiting. This is called the Nauli Karma. It removes dyspepsia, increases appetite and digestion, and is like the goddess of creation and causes all happiness. It dries up all the disorders in the body. This is an excellent exercise explained in Hatha Yoga system’ – Ref – ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’
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