What is Pulse Diagnosis?
Knowledge of the pulse (nadi vijnana) is one of the very unique and powerful tools of Ayurveda, although not mentioned specifically in the classical trio of Ayurvedic texts Charaka, Sushruta and Vagbhata. It was first mentioned by Vaidya Shangadhara (13th Cent A.D.). The origins are a source of controversy. The knowledge was passed down through generations and kept secret; this way a family could safeguard their livelihood.
Recently, the practice has fallen into disrepute amongst many Ayurvedic physicians, possibly because it is not fully understood â€“ it was originally taught in a systematic manner from the pupilâ€™s early childhood. In spite of this, Diana noted during her clinical practice in India that all of the doctors, even those who might decry the Ayurvedic application of pulse diagnosis, would take the pulse of the patient on the correct wrist with all three fingers.
Examination of the pulse is the first stage of the general physical examination (asta sthana pariksha). The term â€˜nadiâ€™ literally means a tube or channel through which something moves. In terms of Ayurvedic diagnostics this referrers to arteries (dhamanis) alone, specifically to the arterial pulse. Some authors associated with Yoga philosophy use this term for nerves also.
According to Vaidya Siromani Shri Brihaspati Dev Triguna, (President of the All India Ayurvedic Congress) â€˜nadiâ€™ refers to the â€˜flow of energyâ€™, and not merely to the physical pulse. Diana was lucky enough to be present with him at a 10 day conference in The Hague during the winter of 1983. He was invited by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to lead the conference. The renowned physician, Dr Trigunaji was believed to be one of only three people alive with the ability to gain insight into the patientâ€™s medical history after a few secondsâ€™ contact with their wrist pulse. He explained at the time that he had not gained the skill through his family, but, unusually, developed it in times of great demand. During great epidemics in India, he said, he would take the pulses of 10,000 people in a day. There were evidently queues of patients waiting for hours to consult with him day after day.
Even years later when Diana later saw him in New Delhi there was a lengthy queue from his surgery of people coming from all over the world to consult with him.
There are eight places where nadis are selected for examination, and of these the main one is just below the wrist.
â€œIn females, nadi is more palpable in the left hand and males in the right hand, and as such should be examined accordingly. As regards methodology first the elbow of the patient should be lightly flexed to the left and the wrist slightly bent to the left with the fingers distended and dispersed. In the early hours of the day nadi should be studiedâ€ [3,4].
"The three fingers placed in position over the nadi indicate the condition of the tridosha and their gati i.e. manda, madhyama, and trksna gati. The index finger denotes vata, the middle finger pitta, and the ring finger kaphaâ€ .
"The pulse study (nadi pariksa) offers knowledge about the involvement of the dosha-vata, pitta and kapha, vatapitta, vatakapha, pittakapha and combination of the tridosha i.e.sannipata. It also indicates the sandya and asadhyata i.e. the prognostic index of the disease one is suffering fromâ€ . quotes from the Yogaratnakara, Chapter on Nadi Pariksa.
Nadi at the wrist is the best suited to examination revealing the condition of the imbalances (doshas), digestive powers (agni), fevers (jwaras) and is capable of revealing all information about the individual to one who is sensitive enough. The nature of the pulse or gati is described as resembling certain familiar animals and birds and their movements. For example snake (sarpa) and feeble (ksina) are symptomatic of Vata whereas a frog (manduka) or crow (kaka) which is warm (usna) is taken for Pitta and the waddle of a swan (hamsa) or elephant (gaja) for Kapha. Qualities or gunas are similarly related to the doshas, fast (vegavati) and thin(tanu), are Vata qualities whereas hot is a Pitta quality and slow (manda), soft (snigdha) and steady (sthira) are Kapha qualities. Oneâ€™s diet and the season of the year will affect the quality of the pulse as well as the time of day. All of oneâ€™s experiences will have a palpable effect on the pulse.
The ideal healthy pulse should be above all clearly perceptible (suvyaka), unmixed (nirmala) and not very slow nor unsteady. However there is a lot more to taking the pulse than these text book descriptions. The main key is in the observer's ability to settle down to the least excited state of their own consciousness; that basis of universal stillness, which is in tune with the cosmic flow of nature. In this way the observer can perceive any subtle difference between their inner silence and the flow of energy present in the patientâ€™s pulse, and this indicates imbalance. Taking oneâ€™s own pulse is one of the most healing tools available to us.Â Subconsciously there is memory of perfect health, if only from the moment of birth. The act of taking oneâ€™s own pulse resets this basic energy mechanism. The catch? It has to be taken regularly. At least ten times a day would be recommended for the average western adult.
Dianaâ€™s own Ayurvedic guru, Vaidya (Dr) J.R. Raju, recounted how he was instructed in Nadi Vijnana by his uncle at the age of four. He was only shown how to take the pulse and given no explanation as to its meaning. It was years before he gained any further comprehension. It should be noted that understanding of the pulse comes with experience and the development of a deep intuition, which is based on the self-referral value of oneâ€™s own consciousness. It was in the late 1980s that Dr Raju was invited by Maharishiji to make a Pulse Diagnosis (Nadi Vijnana) training course available for the benefit of the world at large. Diana was exceptionally fortunate to attend several of these training courses, qualifying to assist in leading such courses. She then went on to take advanced courses in pulse diagnosis in May 2008 at Bad Ems in Germany. However, she maintains that she has gained only a very rudimentary understanding of the pulse, having learnt relatively late in her life.