Ayurvedic pulse reading can provide deep insights into the mind, body, and soul when done with a skilled practitioner or doctor.
One evening a few years ago when I was studying with Ayurvedic legend Dr. Vasant Lad in Pune, India, he checked my pulse and said something about my health (that I hadn’t yet shared with anyone) that blew my mind. Ayurvedic pulse reading isn’t magic or occult. Rather, the art and science of Ayurvedic pulse reading, or nadi pariksha, helps practitioners offer a “diagnosis” through the pulse. And it is just that precise and powerful. Next time you see an Ayurvedic practitioner, ask them to do your pulse reading, if they don’t already.
Ayurvedic Pulse Reading at a Glance
In Western medicine, pulse reading simply includes measurement of the heart rate, which is taken with blood pressure as part of a standard physical exam. In contrast, Ayurvedic pulse reading can help diagnose both the physiological and psychological state of the client. It helps assess the health of all the major organs in the body. It’s a non-invasive process that doesn’t just address symptoms but helps determine the root cause of disease and health concerns.
Ayurveda as a whole seeks to bring the body, mind, and spirit into equilibrium. This equilibrium gets impacted when we introduce unhealthy conditions like irregular diet, erratic lifestyle, high stress, poor sleep hygiene, and even changes in the weather into the equation. Through Ayurvedic pulse reading, a doctor or practitioner can “diagnose” (detect) subtle subclinical changes in the doshas of a relatively healthy subject.
How Experts Perform Ayurvedic Pulse Reading
Nadi pariksha involves paying attention to the vibrations and the frequency of the pulse at different levels on the radial artery at the wrist. An Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner gently places their index, middle, and ring finger on the hollow beneath the client’s wrist. Their hands are stable and their minds calm. They observe the quality of the pulse under each finger.
Experts will tell you that the signals obtained from these locations are not only due to the contraction and relaxation of blood vessels but also a result of movement of blood through the artery. Under the index finger is where you feel Vata dosha; Pitta dosha is felt under the middle finger; and the ring finger is where you feel Kapha dosha. The different signals and waveforms obtained from the three precise locations of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha nadi (energy lines) have a shape similar to that of movement of a snake, frog, and swan, respectively.
An Ayurvedic Perspective on the Pulse
According to Ayurveda, the pulse has seven layers. The first layer is the prakruti, or the pulse that represents your constitution. This layer is fixed. The seventh layer is the one where you gauge the doshic imbalances, also known as vikruti. This layer fluctuates because it represents the imbalances in your body. The other five layers are more complicated, so I will leave you with just those two for now.
Here are a couple examples of client experiences with Ayurvedic pulse reading:
Client 1: I met with a new client recently, and the seventh layer of his pulse was different in both of his hands. Ayurveda will tell you that’s a sign of cardiac or circulatory issues. Well, during the consultation he told me that he’d had an angioplasty. Bam!
Client 2: Another client (whose constitution is Pitta-Kapha) was running late for our appointment. She skipped lunch and drank two cups of coffee instead. She tends to get anxious easily. When I took her pulse, it was screaming Vata. Too much caffeine, travel, and the stress of running late combined with fall weather in New York City (Vata season) led to the perfect storm. Overall, this client leads an erratic lifestyle that makes her vulnerable to Vata imbalance.
How Ayurvedic Pulse Reading Can Help Us Improve Our Lives
As an Ayurvedic practitioner, nadi pariksha is a revelatory tool to assess my own state of being. If I drink too much chai and go for a long hike, my pulse will show a Vata imbalance in the seventh layer. But an hour later, you can’t feel any Vata issues. That’s how temporary vikruti can be. But during the summer (Pitta season), even if I sit in the shade, eat Pitta-pacifying foods, avoid the midday sun, and stay away from confrontation, my pulse will still show Pitta imbalance. Seasons have a huge impact on our doshas and pulse readings!
Simply put, Ayurvedic pulse reading can be used for assessing all three doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, as well as the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual state of the client. Nadi pariksha is one of my favorite ways of assessing clients because it’s both meditative and reveals details about the health of the client and their various internal systems. I spent five days with my late father after we brought him home from the hospital, and the doctors said they could do nothing more. Every morning and evening I would check his pulse. His pulse told me many stories, including when he was approaching his end.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your healthcare practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic practitioner, contact Sweta here.