Nauli is one of the six main groups of shatkarmas or cleansing techniques, three of which have already been described. Most of the practices of dhauti have already been explained as well as jala neti, sutra neti and trataka. In this topic we propose to explain the first part of nauli.
Nauli is a yogic technique of massaging the entire abdomen and stomach by contracting and rolling the abdominal muscles (specifically the rectus abdominii). It is very beneficial for the health of the digestive system and in fact the health of the whole body. Of all yogic practices, nauli gives the most profound massage of the inner organs. It is quite difficult for beginners but with determination and regular practice it can be done by almost even one.
The Sanskrit word 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 (perhaps of a lotus). The word nala is also Sanskrit for the rectus abdominii muscles (in the Monier Williams Sanskrit Dictionary it is literally defined as the ‘navel string’). The rectus abdominii are the two muscles which act as pillars supporting the abdominal organs between the pelvic region and the chest. Thus nauli is the technique that is concerned with manipulation of the rectus abdominii muscles.
It is also interesting to note that the Sanskrit word nau means ‘ship’. When nauli is perfected then the abdominal muscles seem to flow like the rolling waves of the ocean. The muscles create the same wave-like motion produced by a ship gliding through the water.
Nauli is also called lauliki karma. The word lauliki is derived from the root wordlola which means ‘to move hither and thither’, ‘rolling and agitation’. And this is exactly what the technique of lauliki (or nauli) does. It rolls, rotates and agitates the entire abdomen and associated muscles and nerves. The word karma here means ‘process or technique’. Thus lauliki karma is the technique of rotating the abdominal muscles and stirring up the inner organs.