April 2009 – Nauli


Uddiyana Bandha and abdominal churning

Nauli (in Sanskrit Nauli = Churning)
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that Nauli stimulates the digestive fire, thereby removing toxins, indigestion, and constipation. It is considered a Shat Karma (6 actions), which is an internal cleansing to aid with excess phlegm, mucus, or fat. It is one of the most highly recommended yogic exercises to do daily.  In addition, Nauli strengthens the abdominal muscles and massages the internal organs.

This practice needs to be done on an empty stomach.

To learn Nauli first learn uddiyana bandha; bend your knees slightly and put your hands on either leg just above your knees, bending forward.  Take an inhale and look up slightly arching your back, then round your back exhaling slowly as you completely empty your lungs **this is important** you hold your breath out as you learn these exercises.  Holding your breath out tuck your chin into the notch in your sternum (this is jalandhara bandha), keeping your glottis closed act is if you are going to inhale (but don’t!), this will suck your diaphragm up creating a big hollow under your ribs.  Hold as long as possible (no straining) then release the belly and diaphragm before you breathe in.  Work this for a several weeks to a several months before progressing.  If you are having problems “sucking” your belly up, make sure you are relaxing your abdominals, the “suck” comes from the vacuum you’ve created, not from lifting up with your abdominal muscles.

Uddiyana bandha will not only strengthen your abdominals but will stretch the diaphragm allowing you to take deeper breaths and breathe more comfortably.  It also keeps the zone between the diaphragm and chest wall healthy and slippery allowing the diaphragm to move freely.

If you have been practicing the uddiyana lift and are starting to feel the abdomen sucking up, you can try the next step, which is to lift and drop the stomach repeatedly.  You lift just as you practiced above, to drop the stomach just release your lift–this should take no effort.  Firstly try a couple rounds slowly maybe getting three lift/drops per round; then try to do it a little faster.  Remember to do this on an exhale retention, release the stomach before you inhale (at the end of each round), and to not hold your breath so long that you feel faint or dizzy.
This practice will help you develop control of your abdominal muscles and diaphragm.

The next step is to practice gaining more control and manipulation of your abdominal muscles.  Begin by first doing the uddiyana lift as above, then pull in and contract the sides of your abdomen making your rectus abdominis muscle (the top most layer of abdominals) pop out like a fibrous band running from your xiphoid process to your pubic bone, creating a hollow on both sides of the muscle.  The contraction to do this involves contracting the obliques (abdominal muscles that run diagonally over your torso) while you push out the rectus abdominis muscles.  This practice is a step toward Nauli that helps give you control and teaches you how to isolate your abdominal muscles.

Finally, to work in to Nauli suck up your abdomen as in the uddiyana kriya and then try figure out how to roll your abdominal muscles side to side (going both ways; right to left and left to right). You can begin this motion with a little lunging movement side to side to use momentum to help get the motion rolling. After some time you want to make it smooth as in a wave like motion. This may take months or years to figure out, but eventually you will realize you have control of your abdominals to do this!

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