The Sanskrit Nauli comes from the root word ‘nala’ or ‘nali’, which means a tubular vessel, vein or nerve of the body; a reed or hollow stalk. The word ‘nala’ is also the Sanskrit for the rectus abdomen, (in the Monier Williams Sanskrit dictionary it is literally defined as the ‘navel string’). It is also interesting to note that the Sanskrit word ‘nau’ means ‘ship’, for when Nauli is perfected then the abdominal muscles seems to flow like the rolling waves of the ocean. The muscles create the same wavelike motion produced by a ship. Nauli is the practice of contracting and isolating the rectums abdominal muscles. In the “Gheranda Samhita” it is known as ‘laulika’. Laulika comes from the word ‘Lola’ which means ‘to roll or ‘agitate’. When the rectus abdominal muscles are rotated from left to right (anticlock-wise), it is called ‘dakshina-nauli.’ When they are rotated from right to left (clock wise), it is vama-nauli’.When the muscles are pulled together and the middle group of muscles protrudes, it is ‘madhyama-nauli’. Before attempting Nauli you must be able to perform Uddiyana bandha properly. The rectus abdominal are the two long vertical muscles situated in front of the abdomen, which run under the center of the ribcage near the diaphragm to the pubic bone. Though these are the muscls you are manipulating in Nauli, the external oblique and traverse abdominal are also utilized. At first Nauli is practiced with the hands just above the knees and the body bent forward. Once this is perfected you can practice in a more erect position, with the hands placed on the upper thighs.
Technique 1:: Stage 1:
Stand with the feet 1½to 2 feet apart–bend the knees and rest the palms of the hands just above the knees, thumbs on the insides of the thighs and finders touching the outsides, or as shown in diagram–keep the head up and the eyes open–breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale quickly through
the mouth, slightly pursing the lips–perform Jalandhara bandha while maintaining bahiranga, (external) kumbhaka–suck the abdomen and stomach in by performing Uddiyana bandha–lift the right hand slightly off the knee, keeping all the pressure on the left hand and knee, but do not lean to
the left side–this will automatically isolate the rectus abdominal muscles on the left–release Uddiyana bandha–raise the head slowly–stand up and inhale slowly
–this is vama nauli–practice in the same way on the right side –keep the right hand resting above the knee and slightly lift the left hand to isolate the rectus abdominal muscles on the right–this is dakshinanauli–in between each round of nauli, release uddiyana first, then jalandhara–raise the head–stand erect and breathe in very slowly through the nose–take a few normal breathes before practising the nest round.
Stage 2:Practice vama or dakshina nauli as in stage 1–start to roll the muscles to the other side, but before they reach the opposite side, hold them in the middle–in order to roll the muscles, slowly bring the weight back onto the hand which was lifted from the knees–this is madhyama nauli.
Stage 3:Practice in the same way as for stages 1 and 2 but learn, to control the contraction of the muscles and to isolate the muscle groups without lifting the hands from the legs–first try by just releasing the pressure off the hand without moving it from the leg–gradually begin to control the practice so that
the hands remain fixed on the legs–practice with the hands on the thighs.
Technique 2:Stand in the same position as in technique 1–keep the hands on the legs above the knees through out the whole practice–practice vama nauli and then roll the muscles to the right and back to the left–continue rotating the muscles in a clockwise direction–this is known as ‘churning’–start by practising 3 times consecutively-then release–practice dakshina nauli in the same way, rotating the muscles anticlockwise–when this churning is perfected, practise it 3 times with vamanauli, then 3 times with dakshina nauli and release–when this is perfected you can increase to 10 and 90 rounds.
Technique 3: Practice techniques 1 and 2 in siddhasana or siddha yoni asana, with the buttocks raised slightly by a cushion–initially it will be difficult to control the muscles in the sitting position, so it is better to first
perfect the practice of nauli in the standing position.Nauli should only be practiced when the stomach is empty, i.e., at least 5 to 6 hours after meals. The best time to practice is early in the morning before break fast. If you feel any pain in the abdomen during nauli you should immediately stop the practice.Try the following day or when the pain subsides, but if it persists you should consult your teacher or doctor. Nauli should not be performed by those suffering from heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, gallstones, hernia or peptic or duodenal ulcer. Pregnant women should not practice. However, after child birth it is highly recommended in order to strengthen the abdominal and pelvic muscles and read just the position of the inner organs.
Yogic claims:According to Yogi Swatmarama
“Nauli is foremost of the hatha yoga practices. It kindles the digestive fire, removing indigestion, sluggish digestion and all disorders of the doshas, and brings about happiness”. Nauli quickly tones the abdominal muscles, nerves, intestines, reproductive, excretory and urinary organs. Every part of the internal system is stimulated by this practice. It balances the endocrine system and helps control the production of sex hormones. Nauli, is especially useful for alleviating constipation, indigestion, nervous diarrhoea, acidity, flatulence, depression,hormonal imbalances, sexual and urinary disorders, laziness, dullness, lack of energy and emotional disturbances. Through its practice one can control sensual desires and strengthen one’s willpower.