Nau means boat (like nauka) and Li means cling, so in nauli kriya, the abdominal muscles cling to the abdominal wall while moving like a boat on the rolling waves of the ocean. It allows you to massage the organs in your abdominal region through the circular movement of the abdominal muscles.
Nauli is a purification technique used in yoga. To perform nauli, stand with your feet hip width apart, take a big breath in, then fold forward and release the breath. With lungs empty, next, suction in the stomach, (inward and upward, through udiyana banda, a technique used to lift the pelvic floor). Next, release the soft part of the belly in the centre. Then, contract the left and right abdominal muscles in turns, causing a wave-like, churning motion.
You can watch this video for a demo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv8KJ6SJzZ8
The vacuum created pulls blood from the abdominal cavity into the chest and heart and improves circulation to the abdominal muscles, tissues and organs. The pressure in the capillaries and veins in the abdomen decreases, facilitating blood flow and fluid exchange.
Nauli has many benefits. It stimulates and cleanses your digestive and elimination systems — the intestines, stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen, bladder, colon and the reproductive organs. This alleviates constipation and ensures smooth bowel movements. It tones the abdominal muscles (especially the rectus abdominus, which, for women after pregnancy, may become very weak) and the pelvic floor (which helps support a healthy spine and prevent back aches.) It reduces excess fat on the abdomen and internal abdominal organs. It strengthens the muscles that control the flow of urine. It stirs up the lymphatic fluids in the abdominal area and increases your immunity. It increases metabolism and internal energy, giving vitality.
Healthy bowel movement means daily elimination of waste. If you are not able to go at least once a day, you may try nauli kriya, and also, adjust your diet. It is important to eat sufficient fibre and green vegetables (cabbage, spinach, etc). Guava, papaya and watermelon (with the seeds) can also help.
Nauli should be practiced when the stomach is completely empty. A beginner may start with three rounds in each direction (ten rotations). After two weeks of practice, one can build up to ten rounds within a week. One can slowly build up to 25 rotations per round, for ten rounds. If pregnant or menstruating, nauli kriya should be avoided.
Nauli stimulates the third chakra, the Manipura, located at the navel. Manipura is the storehouse of vital energy (prana) and so, activating this chakra helps boost one's ability to exert one's will, take responsibility and get things done. It also activates the second chakra, the Svadisthana, which helps us accept reality and move with the cosmic flow.
Photo Courtesy: Shazia Omar
Shazia Omar is a yogini, activist and writer. Her yoga classes are available for free on her channel: YouTube.com/ShazzyOm