What Is Nauli?

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Nau (boat) + Li (to cling to)

Nauli definition

Nauli– Self-penance

Nauli, also known as isolation of the belly, is a cleansing technique that uses a churning or rolling motion of the abdominal muscles.

Nauli Deep Dive

Nauli is not a simple technique and you’re not likely to find it in your weekly yoga class. It is a yoga technique which is also referred to as a kriya or shatkarma and acts as a cleansing practice. Nauli is one of six shatkarmas. They are:

  • Neti – Nasal/sinus wash
  • Dhauti – Digestive tract cleansing with cloth
  • Nauli – Abdominal massage and cleaning by moving the muscles of the stomach in a rolling motion
  • Basti – Colonic irrigation
  • Kapalabhati – A breathing (pranayama) technique in which the practitioner forcefully expels the exhale through the nose.
  • Trataka – Fixed point gaze often staring at a candle flame.
a man kneeling practicing nauli

So what exactly is nauli?

Nauli is a hatha yoga practice used to cleanse the body in preparation for other practices and ultimately for liberation and enlightenment. There are three prominent texts which speak of Nauli.  Let’s see what they have to say.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says to “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.”

The Gheranda Samhita states that nauli is – “the practice of moving the stomach and intestines from one side to another with great force.”

The Hatha Ratnavali refers to nauli as“the practice of rotating the abdomen right to left and left to right while bending down the shoulders”.

The practice of nauli is one of the more advanced cleansing practices that is still in use today and it requires the practitioner to move the stomach and intestines around while holding a static position where the practitioner is bent over by 45 degrees.  Basically, you do it while bending over – it’s not performed in a yoga posture.

In order to practice nauli the yogi needs to be able to perform uddiyana bandha (the abdominal lock), mula bandha (the root lock) and jalandhara bandha (the chin lock).

Like many yogic practices it is considered best to practice nauli in the morning.

There are three stages to practicing nauli.

Madhyama Nauli – contraction of the stomach muscles into the abdomen

Vama Nauli – contraction of the muscles of left side of the abdomen

Dakshina Nauli – contraction of the muscles on the right side of the abdomen

It is necessary to master each of these before performing the full version of nauli which requires all three parts to be done in succession.

a woman standing practicing nauli

Benefits of Nauli

Nauli removes dyspepsia, increases appetite and digestion. It is like the Goddess of Creation. Also, it gives happiness and drives away all the disorders. It is an excellent Kriya in Hatha Yoga. – Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.34

While the Hatha Yoga Pradipika makes the bold claim that nauli rids the practitioner of all disorders there are some reported benefits from modern practitioners including:

  • Relief of digestive issues and constipation
  • Massaging and strengthening effect on the abdominal muscles as well as the intestines, reproductive and excretory organs
  • Heat generation within the body
  • Boosting of digestion and appetite
  • Encouragement of blood flow around the stomach
  • Aiding the loss of belly fat
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Removing toxins
  • Abating indigestion

Who shouldn’t practice Nauli?

B.K.S. Iyengar states that nauli “is not recommended for the average practitioner” because it is considered an advanced technique. Because this is not one for beginners (or even regulars!) it’s worth noting that some people should sit this one out including:

  • Those with heart disease, hypertension, hernias or ulcers
  • Those with gastrointestinal issues
  • Pregnant people
  • Beginners and those who have not yet mastered Uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha
  • Those recently recovering from surgery
    • As always check with your doctor before changing or adding something new to your yoga routine.
a woman sitting cross legged on the beach practicing nauli

Nauli In Your Life

So you know what nauli is and you want to give it a go in your life?

Considerations before beginning nauli practice

Here are some important things to consider before starting a nauli practice:

  • Always make sure that you practice with an experienced teacher
  • Perform on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning after emptying your bowels
  • You need to be comfortable in a bent-over position as it is usually practiced in a standing position with the torso positioned forward.

Practicing nauli

  • Stand with the knees and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Lean forward to around a 45-degree angle so that you can rest your hands on your thighs.
  • Lower the chin to the chest to initiate jalandhara bandha
  • Start with a full breath out before drawing the abdomen in and assuming uddiyana bandha.
  • Staying as relaxed as possible, begin to roll the abdominal organs in a wave-like action
  • Repeat several times before resting
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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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