Want to learn a yoga move that’ll make your Instagram followers stop short while scrolling? You could try nauli, an ancient cleansing practice for the digestive system that’s stomach-churning in every sense of the word.
If you haven’t heard of it, you’re hardly in the minority—it’s not exactly the kind of thing that’s taught in a studio class, since it takes a lot of body awareness and skill. (I was briefly introduced to the breathing method during yoga teacher training, but never managed to get the hang of it myself.)
You could try nauli, an ancient cleansing practice for the digestive system that’s stomach-churning in every sense of the word.
Nauli’s entered the spotlight thanks to pro yogi Aubry Wiltcher, who created a stir when she posted a video of the technique on her account last week. She even caught the attention of yoga apparel brand Alo, which enlisted her to film a how-to video for its YouTube channel.
The model and yoga instructor tells me she’s been incorporating nauli into her morning routine for ages, but she also uses it as an abdominal warm-up for her inversion practice.
“Not only is nauli incredibly effective in building a functionally strong core and helping with digestion, but it’s a quick and effective method of kickstarting my core engagement,” she says. “The most prominent sensation is an interesting stretch and suction located on both sides of my stomach, almost exactly between my belly button and my hip points.” Western scientists haven’t studied the health benefits of nauli, but hatha yogis have sworn by the ancient breathing practice for centuries.
And seeing as it’s potentially good for your gut and your crow pose, it’s easy to see why advanced students would want to master the exercise.
If you want to try it out for yourself, here’s Wiltcher’s guide to nauli (or just watch, if you can—ahem—stomach it).
How to do nauli
Wiltcher likes to prep for nauli by doing a few minutes of kapalabhati breathwork, or “breath of fire”—quick, forceful, diaphragmatic inhales and exhales though the nose. Then, she says to follow these four steps.
1. Begin with your feet hip width apart (about two fists between your arches), bend your knees, place your hands on your knees, and take a deep breath.
2. At the bottom of your exhale, hold your breath and create a vacuum, sucking everything up and into the rib cage. Hold for a moment and push everything back out. Repeat this process without breathing in or out.
3. After a few rounds, increase the rate, as well as the force, of the thrust.
4. Once that’s attained, explore left and right isolation, and eventually add rhythm as you begin to roll your nauli from right to left.
Yes, it’s as tricky as it sounds, even for experts like Wiltcher. “I find that my nauli practice can be super strong one day and not so much the next—maybe it’ll even feel mildly foreign,” she says. “Any bloating from my diet or PMS definitely affects it.”
If you’re pregnant, menstruating, or suffering from any abdominal injuries, you should probably skip this one. It’s also best to practice nauli on an empty stomach, for obvious reasons. But just like nailing the perfect chaturanga, it’s accessible for all bodies—and if your first attempt’s a flop, you should just keep trying.
“Be patient and dedicated, and it’ll come,” Wiltcher says. So will the double taps.