A yoga technique is taking Instagram by storm and we can’t decide if it’s impressive or terrifying.
Nauli, dubbed by some as ‘alien yoga’, involves isolating muscles in the abdominal area and sucking them inside the ribcage.
Advocates of the practice claim it aids digestion and helps to strengthen the core muscles.
While Nauli is nothing new, there are now more than 5,000 posts tagged #nauli on Instagram.
But is it safe and can it really improve your health?
Personal trainer Dom Thorpe told HuffPost UK Nauli is not dangerous, adding: “It’s simply a case of relaxing the obliques (love handle muscles), contracting the rectus abdominus (abs) and then using your diaphragm to create a vacuum inside the abdomen which sucks in the wall of the stomach either side of the rectus absominus.”
Raquelle Gracie, yoga teacher and co-founder of Yogassential - an app to connect with yoga teachers for small or private bookings - is a fan of the technique.
“Nauli is an incredibly healing and invigorating Kriya - Kriya means technique or ritual,” she told HuffPost UK.
“Nauli Kriya is used to gain control over the stomach muscles and massage the internal organs to improve digestion, strengthen the liver and eliminate constipation.
“All of these ancient Kriyas have been designed to benefit the physical body to cleanse and purify the body. The reason for this is to aid in the awakening of the consciousness and eventually enlightenment of the self.”
She added that “Nauli is a safe practice” but shouldn’t be attempted by amateurs without instruction.
“This is an advanced practice and I wouldn’t recommend it for those with heart problems unless they are being guided by a learned yogic teacher as it can elevate the heart rate,” she said.
However, Thorpe is less convinced by the supposed health benefits of the practice, suggesting Nauli is no more than a party trick.
“I’ve been doing it since I was a youngster although not as a form of exercise, more a way to freak people out,” he said.
“I expect the health claims are false. It’s only really likely to strengthen the diaphragm if anything, potentially the abs, but not a great deal.
“I sincerely doubt that it has any benefits to the digestive system.”
Dr Clare Morrison, a GP at online pharmacy and doctor MedExpress, said it’s difficult to determine whether Nauli will improve the digestive system as different treatments help different people.
“Digestive problems can be due to a lot of issues and there’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tackling them. Often it’s a case of trial and error, eliminating different foods and being mindful of how and when you eat your food,” she told HuffPost UK.
“I believe that if Nauli has produced results for those who can practice it – although it looks hard to master to say the least – I would say go for it.
“However, it’s important to bear in mind that if you don’t have experience isolating muscles, you can cause yourself damage, so it’s best to take things slowly and with the right teacher if Nauli isn’t something you’ve practiced before.”
Emma Soos, clinical director at The Women’s Health Clinic added: “There are some health benefits associated with rolling the abdomen, such as aiding circulation and digestion as food descends through your body but I have not come across this trend before.
“I would advise caution trying this at home, it would be quite easy to strain or herniate one of your abdominal muscles if not followed correctly.
“Instead, why not try a probiotic or some ginger tea which has age-old calming ingredients to aid digestion.”