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Nauli, the fourth Shatkarma

Throughout our last articles, we explored the Shatkarma practices. We’ve learned that they are cleansing processes meant to purify the Nadis, the channels through which our Prana circulates.

We’ve seen that the regular practice of Shatkarma allows the energy to flow freely in the body and get balanced. Once the Prana is balanced, it passes via the Sushumna Nadi, and the yogi can attain higher levels of consciousness and eventually reach Samadhi.

We’ve discussed the practice of Dhauti, which cleans the whole digestive tract; Basti, cleansing the lower intestines; and Neti, purifying the head region.

In this article, we’ll dive into the practice of Nauli.

Nauli Kriya, general benefits.

Nauli Kriya, also called Lauliki, is the fourth of the Shatkarma practices. The word Lauliki comes from the root Lola, which means to roll or to agitate. The method consists of a contraction and rotation of the abdomen that massages the internal organs, muscles, and ligaments.

The digestive system

The practice strengthens the abdominal muscles, enhancing the general health of the body and reducing risks of injury such as hernia and back problems. The movement also helps create space in the fascia, connecting and enveloping the organs in the abdomen. When Nauli is adequately practiced, the abdominal muscles squeeze and massage the organs. It thus stimulates the production of digestive fire, improves bowel function, and reduces constipation. It also activates the pancreas and increases the secretion of insulin. It is thus particularly good for diabetes management and can also solve gas and hyperacidity problems.

The Nadis and Chakras

The practice of Nauli also has significant spiritual benefits. Since many energy centers and Nadis are located in the abdomen, the movement created during the Kriya increases the circulation of Prana. It awakens the chakras, specifically the Manipura Chakra, located at the navel center and associated with the fire element and the sense of self. The awakening of the Manipura Chakra reduces symptoms of depression, dullness, and lethargy.

Preparatory practices

Because it can be difficult to perform efficiently, there are preparatory practices to master before going into Nauli. These practices will allow the yogi to gain the necessary control over his abdominal muscles to practice Nauli correctly.

Uddiyana Bandha
Uddiyana Bandha

The first preparatory practice is Uddiyana Bandha, or abdominal lock, in which the practitioner exhales and sucks his abdomen inside and up while holding his breath out.

Agnisara, one of the Dhauti Kriyas we discussed in a previous Shatkarma article, is the second recommended preparatory practice. In Agnisara, the yogi is sitting and brings his abdomen in and out forcefully, in sync with his breath. Both techniques stimulate the circulation in the abdominal muscles, organs, tissues, and pelvic area and strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. Agnisara is different from Nauli because it doesn’t have the same spiritual effects.

Nauli, how to practice.

Once the yogi masters the Uddiyana Bandha and Agnisara, he can practice Nauli.

As mentioned, Nauli is the contraction of the abdominal muscles in a rotative or side-to-side movement. In this practice, the yogi needs to master a coordinated use of various muscles in his body, including muscles in his feet, hands, back, and abdomen. The abdominal muscles are the most important because they need to contract in a specific manner.

To understand the Nauli practices, we need to understand the anatomy of the abdominal muscles. The rectus abdominis stretches from the ribcage down to the pubic bone in the center of the abdomen. On each side, three layers of muscles overlap to provide maximum strength. These muscles are the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominal muscles. They form an essential part of the core muscles, stabilize the spine, and support the abdominal organs.

Nauli has four stages, each targeting a part of the abdominal muscles we’ve just described.

Nauli Kriya
  1. Madhyama Nauli: This is the contraction of the rectus abdominis. It creates an arch in the center of the abdomen toward the spine.

  2. Vama Nauli: This is the contraction of the abdominal muscles on the left side, and the left side of the abdomen is sucked toward the spine.

  3. Dakshina Nauli: The abdominal muscle contraction on the right side creates a gap under the right ribs.

  4. Bhramara Nauli: It is the combination of the three precedent practices. The abdominal muscles are contracted and rotated. The rotation starts clockwise, from left to right, about 5 to 10 times. Then, the movement is from right to left for another 5 to 10 times.

During the practice, it is crucial to have control over the breath. The yogi needs to be able to retain his breath outward after the exhalation. While practicing Nauli, he maintains his breath out, slightly bending forward. He inhales after having completed his rounds, standing back up straight.

As in Pranayama practices, there is a progression to increase the abdominal muscles’ capacity to contract and rotate. The beginner practitioner will start with five rounds of Madyama Nauli and slowly increase until he manages to do ten repetitions. When he can comfortably do ten rounds, he’ll practice Vama Nauli and Dakshina Nauli, 5 to 10 repetitions each. When Vama and Dakshina Nauli are performed comfortably, the yogi can start practicing Bhramara Nauli. Again, he’ll begin with five rounds and then increase to 25 as control is gained in his abdominal muscles.

Precautions and recommendations

Nauli can be done daily and should always be practiced on an empty stomach, preferably early in the morning.

It should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher until the technique is mastered. Once it is practiced efficiently, it can be done alone. Nauli is difficult for beginners but can be mastered with regular practice.

If pain is felt in the abdomen, the practice must be stopped until the pain is gone. It shouldn’t be practiced in case of pregnancy but can be resumed about six months post-delivery and should be avoided for the patient with recent major or abdominal surgery. It must be avoided when suffering from cardiac (high blood pressure, hypertension, heart diseases), neurological, or respiratory conditions. One should not practice Nauli in the case of hernia, gallstones, or peptic ulcer.

At Japam, we teach Shatkarma practices on an individual basis. Our teachers are experienced in practicing and teaching the techniques, so they can supervise you and give you recommendations according to your needs and level. Don’t hesitate to contact or visit us for more information.


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