What is this strange stomach-contorting movement that is making headlines and trending on social networking sites as "alien yoga"? It is NAULI KRIYA (which to be fair probably still sounds a bit alien). While this abdominal massage and workout may look alien-like in nature, it has been around in the yoga world for thousands of years.
Derived from the Sanskrit root kri (to do), kriya is an action or effort like a series of postures, breath, and sound that work to manifest a specific goal. Joined with nauli, from the Sanskrit roots nau (boat) and li (to cling to), nauli kriya is a technique for abdominal massage that involves the abdominal organs and muscles moving laterally and vertically in a wave-like motion. It is well illustrated as a process like the pitching of a boat in a stormy sea.
Benefits of Nauli Kriya
Nauli kriya is a powerful abdominal workout that requires strength and focus. The massage of the internal organs such as the stomach, liver, spleen, urinary bladder, pancreas, gall bladder, and large and small intestine helps the body increase gastric fire and eliminate toxins in the digestive tract.
Because the practice requires the ability to isolate the muscles of the rectus abdominis, which make up the "six-pack" or "washboard" region of the abs, it takes a great deal of core strength and tone to master.
Nauli kriya also stimulates the manipura chakra, the storehouse of prana. Activating the manipura chakra increases mental clarity, boosts metabolism, and strengthens the immune system.
It is best practiced on an empty stomach in the morning, or five to six hours after eating. Drinking a cup of warm water and lemon can soothe the belly prior to practicing nauli kriya in the morning.
Warnings and Contraindications
While the process and benefits of nauli kriya can be experienced by anyone willing to learn, it is best to practice with an experienced yogi because there is the possibility of harm to the internal organs.
It is best for individuals who live with hypertension, heart disease, hernias, ulcers, or other gastrointestinal ailments to avoid this practice. If any pain is experienced, it is best to stop practicing and respect the body. In addition, this exercise is not recommended for pregnant women at any point in their pregnancy.
The Bandhas – it is recommended that students are well-trained in jalandhara bandha (throat lock) and uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) prior to learning and practicing nauli kriya.
Pranayama – the practice of bahya kumbhaka (breath retention after exhalation) is an important lesson to learn prior to attempting nauli kriya.
Types of Nauli
- Vama Nauli – the isolated contraction of the left side of the abdominal muscles.
- Daksina Nauli – the isolated contraction of the right side of the abdominal muscles.
- Madhyana Nauli – the isolated contraction of the both sides of the abdominal muscles.
How to Do It
- Start in Tadasana (Mountain pose) with the feet about hip-width distance or wider.
- Bend the knees slightly and hinge gently forward at the hips.
- Maintain straight arms and place the hands above the knees, resting on the thighs, and allow the fingers to spread naturally.
- Lower the chin to rest gently on the top of the breastbone/sternum and in-between the collarbones.
- Inhale comfortably and exhale quickly to force out all the air from the lungs, practice bahya kumbhaka (breath retention after exhalation) and uddiyana bandha (belly lock), and gently push and isolate the rectus abdominal muscles forward. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Relax the rectus abdominal muscles and inhale slowly.
- Repeat steps 1-6 isolating the right side of the rectus abdominal muscles, then repeat steps 1-6 isolating the left side of the rectus abdominal muscles.
After this, pause practice until tomorrow—it is best to give the stomach time to adjust to the practice, rather than overwork the muscles and strain the internal organs. After a few weeks or so of practice, try “churning” your rectus by swirling the rib cage from side to side in a circle over the pelvis or gently moving the hips.
Nauli Kriya is a great way to kick start the morning and give your day an added boost of fire energy. Never mind that it makes your tummy look "alien-like"—the awesome benefits it offers are worth it! Have more questions (or suggestions) about nauli kriya? Post them in the comments below!
Image credit: Drinie Aguilar