Nauli Kriya: The Whys and Hows Of This Powerful Purification Technique

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Yoga continues to be a resource for developing a healthy mind and body. The many forms and styles of yoga offer ways to improve your body, enhance your mind, and brighten your spirit.

Nauli Kriya is a powerful yogic technique that fits the mold for enhancing your overall well-being. It is a yogic practice that has cleansing, healing, and strengthening qualities.

Nauli Kriya is a breathing exercise that involves contracting and moving the abdominal muscles in a systematic fashion.

As a purification tool, it has numerous benefits for the digestive system and helps strengthen the abdominal muscles. Nauli Kriya is considered an advanced practice that requires proper guidance and practice.

Let’s explore the whys and hows of this purification technique with diving into the following:

  • The Definition of Nauli Kriya
  • The History of Nauli Kriya
  • The Five Steps of this Breathing Exercise
  • The Benefits & Precautions of Nauli Kriya

The Definition of Nauli Kriya

Nauli Kriya is a purification technique and is also referred to as Nauli Chalana, which means the “movement of the navel.”

It’s a yogic practice that involves isolating and contracting your abdominal system. This includes the rectus abdominis, the external obliques, and the transverse abdominal muscles.

The action involves moving your abdominal muscles in a circular motion. This technique is known as churning or kneading the abdominal muscles.

someone practicing nauli kriya

To understand Nauli kriya, it is also important to understand the definition of a kriya. It refers to a set of yoga practices; this could be physical movements, breathing techniques, and even the production of sound.

For example, Kundalini Yoga is a form of yoga in which the practitioner is guided through specifically crafted kriyas to meet the intention of the practice. When the set of yoga practices are combined, much like in kundalini, it can result in a beneficial outcome.

The Nauli Kriya purification technique, therefore, consists of a series of abdominal movements and breath work to achieve digestive health and abdominal strength.

The History of Nauli Kriya

Nauli Kriya is an ancient art and was practiced in India by the early yogis. It is difficult to precisely note when this breathing practice was established. However, research has found its possible origins written in yogic texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita.

In Indian culture, it is said that cultivating a healthy digestive system is an indicator of a healthy mind and body. Nauli Kriya was developed as a means to strengthen a yogi’s abdominal muscles as well as cleanse the digestive tract.

As the practice evolved, Nauli Kriya was integrated into the Hatha Yoga practice as a form of purification. It also prepares the mind and body for deep meditative practice.

This abdominal exercise is still used as a tool today for experienced yogis to strengthen their core muscles and enhance their yoga practice.

The Five Steps of this Breathing Exercise

Nauli Kriya is an advanced practice that requires a strong foundation in yoga and proper guidance from an experienced teacher.

There are five steps in this practice. If you’re a beginner to this technique, it is recommended that you practice each one separately and repeatedly until you feel confident in this breathing exercise.

someone practicing Uddiyana Bandha

Step 1: Uddiyana Bandha

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your thighs. Bend your knees and exhale all the air out of your lungs. Relax your stomach, but do not take another breath in.
  • Perform a swallowing action while allowing your throat muscles to tighten. Keep your mouth closed and throat contracted.
  • Imagine you’re inhaling; no actual air will come in, but the diaphragmatic pressure you create while trying to draw breath in will make your belly appear hollow. This is Uddiyana Bandha or the “abdominal lock.”

Step 2: Agnisara Kriya

Nauli Kriya heats the body during this breathing exercise.

Agni is a Sanskrit term that translates to “fire” in English. You generate this fire by creating a wave-like motion with your abdominal muscles.

  • You will do this by engaging and releasing Uddiyana Bandha. Without inhaling or exhaling, slowly release the pressure in your diaphragm, then perform the abdominal lock again.
  • Continue this action a few more times. You will create a churning action with your belly.
  • Remember, you are not breathing throughout this process.
fire sparks from a flame

Step 3: Madhyama (Middle) Nauli

  • Maintain the hollow belly you created using Uddiyana Bandha.
  • Now use added pressure of your hands on your thighs to push out the abdominal muscles. This will create a vacuum-like suction along the sides of your belly.

Step 4: Vama (Left) & Dakshina (Right) Nauli

Once you have achieved the vacuumed effect in Step 3, you can now try to isolate the left and right sides of the abdominal system with this next step.

  • While still in Step 3, release the pressure from your right hand and push more strongly with your left hand into your left thigh. This will make the right side of your abdominal wall retract and the left side protrude. This is known as “vama nauli.”
  • Now repeat the process on the other side: release the pressure from your left hand placing more tension on the right. This is “dakshina nauli.”

Step 5: Nauli Kriya

After you have successfully practiced the first 4 steps, you are now ready for Nauli Kriya.

  • This next step brings together Steps 1 through 4 to form a continuous motion. From Step 3, move into “vama nauli” in Step 4. Then return to Step 1. Next move to “dakshina nauli” in Step 4, then back to Step 3.
  • When complete with your rounds of Nauli Kriya, it is important to release the belly first, then inhale.

Benefits of Nauli Kriya

Nauli Kriya is a powerful yogic practice that offers numerous benefits for the digestive system and the overall health of the body. Some of the benefits of practicing Nauli Kriya are:

  • Improves Digestion
  • Boosts Metabolism & Better Posture
  • Emulates Massage
  • Improves Breathing

Let’s take a deeper look into each of these benefits:

1. Improves Digestion

Nauli Kriya ignites the digestive fire (Agni).

lady eating food in her kitchen smiling

Agni plays a role in the metabolic process which improves your digestion. It contributes to the transformation of food into energy and nutrients within the body.

Agni is considered a vital aspect of health in Ayurvedic medicine and yogic practices, as it is responsible for regulating digestion, absorption, and elimination of waste from the body.

2. Boosts Metabolism

Nauli Kriya can elevate the body’s metabolic rate which makes it easier to burn calories and maintain healthy body weight.

Metabolism is a chemical reaction that converts food into energy. When the metabolic rate is increased, the body can more efficiently convert food into needed energy. This also can contribute to an increase in caloric burning, weight loss, and improved levels of energy.

Under the proper guidance and care of a qualified yoga teacher, Nauli Kriya can be an excellent purification technique for promoting digestive health and abdominal strength.

3. Emulates Massage

The abdominal movements during Nauli Kriya have a massaging effect on your internal organs such as the liver, pancreas, and spleen.

This can promote the proper functioning of these organs and ward off health issues like liver disease, diabetes, and other problems.

person getting an abdominal massage

4. Improves Breathing & Posture

Nauli Kriya can improve respiratory function by expanding the diaphragm and increasing lung capacity. This technique can enhance breathing and promote overall health.

The circular motion of the abdominal muscles in Nauli Kriya also helps to tone and strengthen the muscles, leading to better posture and stability for the spine.

This, in turn, can contribute to better respiratory function, as the diaphragm is better supported by the abdominal muscles.

Precautions of nauli kriya

As with any yogic practice, though, it is important to exercise caution when performing Nauli Kriya. Some of the precautions to consider include:

  • Avoiding the practice during pregnancy and menstruation

As the practice involves the abdominal area, it is not recommended for pregnant women or women who are menstruating.

This is because Nauli Kriya can cause unnecessary pressure on the abdominal area, which could result in complications. Women who are pregnant or menstruating should consult with their doctor before attempting this practice.

people stood in a row with hands in anjali mudra
  • Not practicing on a full stomach

It is recommended to avoid practicing Nauli Kriya on a full stomach as it can interfere with digestion. Individuals with gastrointestinal issues or other health problems should consult with their doctor before attempting this practice.

  • Starting slowly

Beginners should start with the basic version of Nauli Kriya (Steps 1 and 2) and gradually build up to the more advanced stages. It is essential to listen to your body and not overdo the practice.

  • Not forcing the practice

It is essential to avoid forcing the practice beyond your current abilities. As with any yogic practice, it takes time, patience, and practice to perfect Nauli Kriya.

  • Remain in tune with your body

Because this is a dynamic breathing practice, stay mindful and in tune with your body before and during the practice.

If you have digestive issues, a hernia, back pain, or any other related health concerns, please consult with your primary care provider before performing this exercise.

people doing yoga by the sea


Nauli Kriya is an ancient yoga practice that can do wonders for both your body and mind. It is a dynamic purification technique that requires initial guidance, patience, dedication, and, of course, lots of practice.

At first, it may seem like a challenging task, but with consistency, you can experience its amazing benefits.

By strengthening the abdominal muscles, Nauli Kriya can improve digestion, increase energy levels, and even help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Of course, like any other yogic practice, it’s important to be mindful of your body’s needs, so practice this breathing exercise with care and you’ll experience improved digestive health and abdominal strength.

Read about the other shatkarmas here!

Photo of author
John Cottrell is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Yoga Therapist residing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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