The Sanskrit word nauli comes from the root word nala or nali, which means: a tubular vessel, vein or nerve of the body; a reed or hollow stalk (perhaps ofa lotus). The word nala is also Sanskrit for the rectus abdominii muscles (in the Monier Williams Sanskrit Dictionary it is literally defined as the 'navel string'). The rectus abdominii are the two muscles which act as pillars supporting the abdominal organs between the pelvic region and the chest. Thus nauli is the technique that is concerned with manipulation of the rectus abdominii muscles.

It is also interesting to note that the Sanskrit word nau means 'ship'. When nauli is perfected then the abdominal muscles seem to flow like the rolling waves of the ocean. The muscles create the same wave-like motion produced by a ship gliding through the water.

Nauli is also called lauliki karma. The word lauliki is derived from the root word lola which means 'to move hither and thither', 'rolling and agitation'. And this is exactly what the technique of lauliki (or nauli) does. It rolls, rotates and agitates the entire abdomen and associated muscles and nerves. The word karma here means 'process or technique'. Thus lauliki karma is the technique of rotating the abdominal muscles and stirring up the inner organs.

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