Pulse of Life
by Mary Jo Ruggieri, PhD, RPP
Polarity therapy is about Balancing the Elements of LifeSM. The core of this life system is the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Understanding the interaction of the five elements of life — their harmony and disharmony, their functions and dysfunctions, and their relationship within a living system (mentally, physically and emotionally) — are the tools to determine health and wellness.
Most diseases and dysfunctions are dynamic and integrated chain reactions affecting the whole organism. The Polarity practitioner — using the basic principles of Polarity, the knowledge of the five elements and techniques such as energetic touch, energetic foods, communication and lifestyle issues — can energetically assess the whole organism and its process of balance or unbalance.
Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of Polarity, was reported by many who personally worked with him to have used a highly developed system of assessing his clients by taking their pulses. William Leichnitz, RPP, would fondly say that he had the good fortune to assist in many of Dr. Stone’s sessions with his patients (Leichnitz, 1992). “One of the highlights I clearly remember was his ability to assess the clients’ problems by taking pulses” (p. 1). Dr. Stone also would spend a great deal of time with a client taking pulses especially in the wrist and neck area. He came to realize that the pulse shows dimension and follows the three-dimensional make-up of the body: 1) Superior-Inferior; 2) Anterior-Posterior; and 3) Lateral-Lateral (Leichnitz, 1992).
History of the Pulse
Historically, using pulses as a health assessment tool has been documented for over 5,000 years. From the Greeks and Hipprocrates, the father of Modern Medicine, to the Chinese, Japanese, Indian (Ayurveda) and the Arabs, pulses were a source of medical information.
The Greeks made reference to pulses around the time of Democritus (460-370 BC) and the Chinese accounts dealing with the pulse date from 500 BC back to 2500 BC. Egyptians were using the pulses as early as the 13th to the 20th centuries, and Ayurvedic pulse use can be traced from the 6th century BC. Arabs continued the traditions established by the Egyptians, Greeks, Ayurvedists and Chinese (Amber & Babey-Brooke, 1993).
Pulses have continued as diagnostic tools in many healthcare systems even today. Japan is currently working on many research projects using pulse technology, which they base on the Chinese interpretation of the pulse. One can also trace the European use of the pulse today, predominantly the Ayurvedic interpretation via the Arab world (Amber & Babey-Brooke, 1993).
Many historians feel that Western Medicine has been limited and has many failures due to its inability to adequately use the pulse as a diagnostic tool. For centuries a complete system for pulse analysis was highly developed by the Ayurvedics, Iranians and Chinese that made them complete experts in the diagnosis of diseases (Amber & Babey-Brooke, 1993).
The system of Ayurvedic Medicine has documented as many as 600 different pulses with each one having its own unique language. The importance of the pulse needs to be a focus for every holistic practitioner today. Its depth of information and its accuracy in assessing imbalances in the human energy field could be of great value in our current healthcare system.
The pulse reflects, projects and measures life force. It is accurate, speaks out of every limb, and can quickly measure imbalances in the energetic system. When imbalances can be assessed at the energetic level, it is truly a most precise preventive system. If the balance can be restored at the energetic level then the disease will not move into the physical body. Pulses, like lie detector tests, can predict patterns, reveal weak areas, and set up a system of assessment for a holistic and integrated approach.
We must begin to train ourselves, and once again become competent, in the process of using pulses as an assessment tool. To understand pulses in Polarity and to be able to use them, one must turn to the basics of understanding Ayurvedic principles, especially the five elements.
The basic premise to all energy medicine is that disease is an imbalance in the life force, Chi or Prana. To have a tool as accurate as pulse assessment to identify these imbalances can be a lifesaver.
The general differences between Chinese pulse assessment and Ayurvedic pulse assessment is simply as follows:
- Chinese theory uses the Yin/Yang [positive/negative] relationships. Their energy system is based on the concept of the meridian system. The meridians are wireless connections that flow in defined patterns throughout the body. The meridians are a vital communication system, which perceives that the interior of the body can communicate with the exterior. In Chinese theory the organs are all interrelated in this meridian system.
- Ayurvedic theory uses the Step-Down Theory. Energy moves from source to form via a step-down process. Life force resonates via the Chakras and out of each Chakra comes a quality of energy called an element. Out of the elements comes the body. Each juncture of energy as it steps down is called a marma or nadis. These are energy pathways and specific cross-highway points.
Chinese theory relates to twelve classical pulses where Ayurvedic theory relates to the tridoshas, or the five manifested elements.
Ayurvedic Pulses — Three Principles of Energy
The basic three principles of energy (or three forces) are called Vata (Vayu), Pitta (Pitha) and Kapha (old spelling). When the three forces are in balance and the body is also in a state of balance it is called a tridhatus. Any of the three forces out of balance causes a discord or a dosha. The term tridosha is derived from tri – the three principles of energy or forces, and dosha – a Sanskrit term that represents the three forces: Vayu, Pitha, and Kapha, when they are not in balance (Amber & Babey-Brooke, 1993).
Vata is based on the qualities of Ether/Air, which are the movers and transitions in the body. Air influences the nervous system and our mental activity. Ether influences Air and gives space to movement. Air affects the gases of the body, and if joints are inflamed, lack of space and Ether are involved. Air (Vata) reflects the quickness of the body and movement in all directions. Areas of the body affected by the Air Principle are the shoulders, lungs, kidneys, ankles and colon.
Pitta is based on the heat concepts of the body (Fire). Metabolism, combustion, circulation and digestion are the actions of Pitta. Fire focuses Air and yields heat, brightness, clarity, focus and vitality. Fire is about doing, motivation and a sense of personal power. Areas of the body affected by the Fire Principle are the digestive system, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, heart and thighs.
Kapha is based on the concepts of the mucous systems, regenerative system of the body and body structures (Water/Earth]. Water and Earth are the first line of immune defense in our body. Water needs Fire for warmth, Air for cleansing and Earth for boundaries. Water moves downward, connecting the other elements to Earth. Water/Earth is about attachments and letting go. Areas of the body affected by the Water/Earth Principle are the lymphatic system, secretor glands, generative organs, feet, bones, structure and neck, knees and bowels.
Pulses in Three Dimensions
In Ayurveda, as energy steps down it moves from high vibration to low vibration via the Chakra system while projecting elemental qualities of energy. The three forces of energy stepping down form three primary energy patterns, or three dimensions of energy systems. These three primary dimensions of the body can be assessed using the pulses.
Dr. Stone describes the three dimensions as spatial areas of the energy field patterns.
- Left-Right – Air Principle (left lateral to right lateral), which affects the ultra-sonic core.
- Back-Front – Fire Principle (posterior to anterior), affecting the Chakra system.
- Top-Bottom – Water/Earth Principle (superior to inferior), controlling the surface currents.
How to Identify Pulse Dimensions
When we work with the pulse of a client we are experiencing the body’s inner state of balance. The pulse beating at the root of the thumb is said by many to be the “witness to the soul.” Its throbbing shows whether the soul is happy or miserable.
The three basic pulses can be measured at: 1) the wrist (radial pulse) – the root of the thumb; 2) the neck, in direct line down from the Ramus of the jaw; and/or 3) the inside of the heel on the Ether line. The traditional pulse of choice is specifically below the root of the thumb. This pulse correctly tells the condition of the client. I recommend that all Polarity practitioners become skilled on all three pulse areas.
Placement of Fingers
The person doing the assessment uses three fingers of the right hand (Air finger, Fire finger and Water finger). All three fingers are placed two fingers in width below the root of the thumb. Using the left hand, gently press the artery at the elbow and hold the client’s hand in a slanted manner. The touch should be direct, but not to hard, or the pulse will disappear. Take the right (thumb side) pulse for males and left (thumb side) pulse for females.
Pulses have their own patterns: fast, sharp, jumpy, slow or heavy.
- Vata. Air/Ether is represented by a zigzag pulse. It is detected with the pad of the Air finger (index). The Vata pulse is curvilinear motion (movements like a snake). The beats are above normal (female: 80-100 bpm; male: 70-90 bpm).
- Pitta. Fire is represented by a jumpy pulse. The Fire finger (middle) is used to detect this pulse. The Pitta pulse resembles a frog leaping forward in a jerky movement. The beats are medium (female: 70-80 bpm; male: 60-70 bpm).
- Kapha. Water is represented by a slower pulse. The Water finger (ring) is used to detect this pulse. The Kapha pulse resembles swan- or peacock-like movements. The beats are weaker and below normal speed (female: 60-70 bpm; male: 50-60 bpm).
Things to Consider When Assessing the Pulse
- Locate the pulses with the center of the finger pad.
- Check the rhythm — regular, full, scattered.
- Determine the size of the pulse — feel the artery. Roll it gently to feel size. Look for firm, beaded, or crystal-like qualities.
- Allow the artery to move freely with limited pressure.
- Locate the artery by pressing it gently against the bone of the thumb (radius).
- Rotating the pad of each finger will give you more information on direction of the pulses — front/back, left/right or top/bottom.
- It is best to read pulses before eating, drinking or exercising. Practitioner and client should sit very quietly and not engage in conversation.
The most significant assessment technique available to us as Polarity practitioners is the pulse. Pulses can reveal the inner energetic functions and provide a barometer for monitoring a client’s condition. Learning basic Ayurvedic readings of dosha pulses can be an asset in our energetic evaluation process. How the elements and the doshas act, individually or in combination, affect each of the pulses: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Owning the energetic assessment of the pulses is truly a Polarity process. Courses in pulse work should be included at all levels of Polarity Therapy Training.
Amber, R. & Babey-Brooke (1993). Pulse diagnosis. Santa Fe, NM: Aurora Press.
Leichnitz, W. (1992). Ayurvedic pulse reading. APTA Conference Handout, Ann Arbor, MI.
Stone, R. (1986). Polarity therapy. Summertown, TN: CRCS Wellness Books.
Stone, R. (1987). Polarity therapy. Summ