Alien Yoga is said to cleanse the internal organs and tone the abdominal region. The weird alien shape is achieved by emptying your lungs, pulling in your abdomen under your rib cage and isolating and contracting the central, left and right side of the abdominal muscles.
The latest trend of posting video’s and pics of contorted stomach muscles is known as Alien Yoga and is taking over instagram feeds world wide and causing quite a storm.
It is officially known as Nauli Yoga and is not one that’s commonly taught or practiced in Western yoga classes.
“Nauli is something that real yoga practitioners tend to keep to themselves, and newer, less experienced teachers don’t learn because it’s very hard to master as it involves a very different breathing technique,” says Simon Borg-Olivier, Director of Yoga Synergy in Sydney.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that Nauli stimulates the digestive fire, thereby removing toxins, indigestion, and constipation. It is considered a Shat Karma, which is an internal cleansing to aid with excess phlegm, mucus, or fat. The Gheranda Samhita, which predates the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, describes Nauli as such: “With great force move the stomach and intestines from one side to the other.” It also claims that it destroys all diseases and increases the bodily fire. In addition, Nauli tones the abdominal muscles and massages the internal organs.
Mastery of the three locks, Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara Bandha, is essential to practice Nauli. Mula bandha seals vital energy at the perineum (floor of the pelvis) and Jalandhara closes the current at the glottis (pit of the throat) so that any toxin cleansing heat generated in the torso does not move into the higher centers. Uddiyana bandha begins with a forceful exhalation followed by a sharp sucking up of the intestines and diaphragm into a vacuum created in the thoracic cavity.
Simon Borg-Oliver of Yoga Synergy, Sydney has been practising Nauli for the past 50 years, and has also been teaching it to his students for the past 35.
While Borg-Olivier has been posting Nauli Instagram pictures of for a number of years, he says that his following is not as large as others and he’s probably not “young enough or cool enough” for these to be seen.
However, the irony of uncensored Nauli photos trending on Instagram is not lost on Borg-Olivier.
So, is “alien yoga” really an achievable trend? Or is it more about slim females using Instagram as a platform to showcase their stomachs?
“Nauli is achievable, but you have to have satisfied some important prerequisites to be able to do it, and most of the people demonstrating it often have learnt it naturally and cannot describe a way of teaching it effectively,” said Borg-Olivier at the time.
Pre-requisites for mastering Nauli include the ability to breathe diaphragmatically, to isolate the rectus abdominal muscle and to be able to blow out all your air and hold it for a minute or two.
The dangers of not doing it correctly are notable.
“Some people can end up hyperventilating because they can’t master the breathing technique and with that comes a risk of fainting and falling over,” says Borg-Olivier.
“Inaccurate breathing can also cause negative pressure changes in the body that affect the blood vessels and potentially the brain.”
To practice Nauli, assume Uddiyana Bandha. Shift some of your weight over to one side and roll the rectus abdominus (the long muscle that’s often referred to as the “six-pack”) along the back waist and toward that side. Continue to roll the abdominal organs in a wave-like action along the inner rear surface of the abdominal wall. Complete one wave by rolling toward the front surface and back to where you began. Do each side several times.
It’s unclear if Nauli really is the next trend, or if it will simply fizzle out quicker than it began. Naturally, there will be something else to take its place.
In the meantime, most of us will continue to suck in our tummies for social media pictures, but it certainly won’t be to mimic an alien.