We've seen the thigh gap obsession come and go (good riddance), as well as the "bikini bridges" trend, the "thighbrow" craze (started by the Kardashians, obv), the #BellyButtonChallenge, and even the utterly ridiculous A4 paper challenge. (Seriously, you guys. There are too many of these.)
But the latest crazy social media body trend is less about appearance and more about skill, strength, and crazy body control: Meet nauli, the ancient yoga move that's been resurrected from the dead, thanks to Instagram yogis.
It might look like people just showing off their six-pack abs, but it's way more than that (and you don't need to have a six-pack or be any size or weight to pull it off). Nauli is a traditional cleansing kriya (a set of repetitive movements or actions stemming from Kundalini yoga) that's intended to detox and massage your internal organs, says Heidi Kristoffer, Shape's resident yoga expert and creator of CrossFlowX. You roll your abdominals side to side, churning or "chugging" your stomach.
"It's always so funny to me when super grungy, old yoga stuff goes into pop culture," Kristoffer says. "This is like as weird as it gets."
You won't stumble across nauli in one of your regular yoga classes—and, in fact, Kristoffer says most of her clients wouldn't go near anything relatively nauli-ish. She tried teaching her classes about "bandhas" (the internal "locks" in yoga that hold all your prana, aka breath) which you have to engage to attempt nauli, and said it was a total no-go: "It was just too out-there for people."
Before you even think about trying it, a disclaimer: "You're not supposed to do it on a full stomach or pregnant," says Kristoffer. "And obviously anything done without proper instruction can hurt you, and you're messing around with your organs—so you just need to be careful."
Heading to your local nauli-educated yoga instructor is the best bet, but here's how to nauli-it-up on your own:
- Stand with feet hip-widthapart and place your hands on your thighs. Forcefully exhale all the air from your lungs (like you're trying to fog up a window—but harder).
- Without inhaling, engage the mula bandha. It's almost like you're trying to hold in pee or doing a kegel. Hold this empty space at the bottom of your stomach, press into your arms, and curve your spine away from your thighs (like in cat pose).
- Pull the belly in almost like vacuum. It creates a flared ribcage shape, which is the beginning of the nauli kriya. You'll have to practice this and get it down pat before attempting a central nauli (where the center of the abdominals protrudes), a right or left nauli, or the rolling motion. This could take weeks or months, according to Nauli.org, which is dedicated to the practice.
While it's meant for ~detoxification~ and organ massage (which, BTW is also a thing you can have done in a spa), it can also be a sort of abs workout. But don't go too wild: "It's like anything else in fitness; you can't do things that hurt or feel wrong, you have to just listen to your body," Kristoffer says. (So maybe just try this 10-minute lower abs workout instead.)
But if you take the time to master it? You'll have an epic yogi party trick.