Pulse Diagnosis: Learning Ayurveda and Self-Healing

Pulse Diagnosis: Learning Ayurveda and Self-Healing

Historically, Ayurveda was taught by learning to read pulses. In the pulse, you can feel how the daily and seasonal circadian rhythms change with the rise and fall of vata, pitta, and kapha. Using the pulse would help to initially determine if the body was in or out of balance with nature. In the same way, animals migrate, the pulse reflects the subtle rhythms inside of us… we were just never taught to listen to them nor live by them—until now!

I taught pulse reading for over 20 years in two Ayurvedic colleges in an attempt to help keep it alive as a foundational science and art of Ayurveda. Sadly, academia, analysis, and the intellectual application of Ayurveda have pushed away the art, skill, intuition, self-healing, and spiritual basis of Ayurveda as taught through the pulse. I promised my Ayurvedic pulse teacher, Dr. JK Raju, that I would always teach this method of pulse in an attempt to preserve this dying art. Few students these days are willing to take the time to develop this skill, which is saddening. As Dr. Raju always reminded me Ayurveda and the taking of the pulse is even better for the Doctor than it is for the patient because we are learning to speak soul-to-soul with our patients; ultimately, with each pulse you take, you are thinning the veil of ignorance between the physical and spiritual aspects of us. Pulse reading is a self-awareness tool that breeds self-healing, enhanced awareness, and spiritual awakening.

In This Article

I invite you all to join me in the Bahamas at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat Center from May 26th to June 3rd, 2024.

I am excited to be leading an in-person pulse reading intensive while giving evening lectures on Ayurvedic longevity and thinning the veil between the physical and spiritual. If you can’t make it to the Bahamas for my in-person course, but you still want to learn pulse diagnosis, I offer an online course as well. Find it here.

My Pulse Reading Journey 

In 1986, I went to India to study Ayurveda at 30. I landed in New Delhi in the middle of the night with an address in hand of a guest house which was to be my home base for my search for an Ayurvedic teacher.

The drive to Delhi was dark and sparsely lit with the smell of burning cow dung inside mud huts that lined the drive to downtown Delhi; it was a world I never knew existed.

My sister, who was staying at an ashram nearby, invited me to visit her. This is where I met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation. There he invited me to stay and study Ayurveda. With little hesitation, I said yes, and shortly after, I closed my practice in Colorado and started my training in Ayurveda under the tutelage of Dr. JK Raju of Hyderabad, the head of the Ayurvedic hospital.

My training was simple: follow him during his patient rounds while taking my pulse and recording it at least 30 times per day. As far as teaching went, there were no lectures. Based on my self-pulse-taking, I would ask questions. Based on many months of taking my pulse and asking questions based on what I was progressively feeling, the knowledge of Ayurveda revealed itself to me. After a year of rigorous note-taking, Dr. Raju asked if I would make a pulse reading course based on my notes. Thus, the pulse course naturally unfolded after months of self-pulse reading. With a curriculum based on my questions and his answers, an amazing pulse reading course was born. 

Dr. Raju was taught by his grandfather in this way, and he honored me with the same graceful training. When I was invited to come back to the States and co-direct Deepak Chopra’s Maharishi Ayurvedic Center in Massachusetts, I began doing pulse reading Ayurvedic consultations and teaching the course 2-3 times a week.  I traveled each weekend to different Ayurvedic centers throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. As co-director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians training program, I taught pulse diagnosis for eight years. The course is still a part of their curriculum. After my time with Dr. Chopra, I taught this pulse course at the Kripalu Ayurveda School and the Mount Madonna Ayurvedic Institute for about twenty years each. All this to say, I am excited to present these decades of experience with my pulse reading intensive at Sivananda Yoga Retreat from May 26th to June 3rd, 2024!

What You Will Learn  

The beauty of this course is that you learn to feel and experience Ayurveda instead of just learning it academically. Here is a glimpse of the course outline, and how it works.

Lesson One

The first lesson teaches the basics of how to place the fingers. You will learn to find the pulse under the vata, pitta, and kapha (index, middle, and ring) fingers and determine the quality, shape, and form of the pulses under each finger. This introduces the pulse reader to the pulse’s waveforms and wavelengths and the fundamental structure of vata, pitta, and kapha (whose qualities we experience as winter, summer, and spring). This lesson lays the building blocks to understand Ayurveda by actually feeling its three governing principles of vata, pitta, and kapha.

See also Should You Eat For Your Body Type (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) or the Season?

Lesson Two

The second lesson teaches that there are three levels in the pulse: a superficial layer, a middle layer, and a deep layer. These correlate with the three levels of vascular dynamics in Western science called K1, K2, and K3. Traditionally, the three levels represent the structure of the human body at both the macro and microcosmic levels. At the macro level, the deep pulse represents one’s primary constitutional body type and that deep non-changing part of us (like the bottom of a lake). The superficial pulse represents daily changes and the daily rhythms of the body. At a microcosmic level, the deep pulse represents a quantum field of consciousness that manifests in the body as represented by the superficial pulse. The middle pulse represents the transition point where consciousness meets matter, or where the quantum field becomes physiology. It is here that all imbalances arise.

Lesson Three

The third lesson teaches us how to record the reading of the pulse during different activities, times of day, and seasons. You learn to feel the body type as well as initial physiological indicators of balance or imbalance.

Lesson Four

The fourth lesson teaches us how to take the pulse at the critical periods when the circadian times of day are transitioning from vata to kapha, kapha to pitta, and pitta to vata. This transition happens at the gap between the superficial pulse and deep pulse and introduces the student to feeling the gap pulse where all imbalances arise and healing begins. The same instruction is taught for seasonal transitions as well.

Lesson Five

The fifth lesson starts by mapping out and recording the changes in the pulse during normal day-to-day activities like eating, exercising, sleeping, and more. The intention here is that once you know, feel, and record the normal changes, then and only then can you discern abnormal changes or imbalances.

Lesson Six

Lesson six teaches techniques of self-healing with the pulse. This is primarily by using the pulse at the junction point between consciousness and matter (field and physiology) as a self-awareness tool to enhance awareness of underlying imbalances and employ the body’s self-healing abilities. Pulse-taking is a tool known to elicit self-healing.

The following lessons go on to teach more sophisticated diagnostic tools, such as reading the imbalances of the sub-doshas as well as dhatus (the seven main bodily tissues). In addition,  I teach how to prioritize various treatment protocols.

Finally, I teach the treatments, including herbs, exercise, lifestyle, and dietary suggestions for each dosha, sub-dosha, and dhatus imbalance. An Ayurvedic education would be incomplete without this skill to touch, feel, and take the pulse, connecting with patients soul to soul.

Sign Up Now for Dr. John’s Pulse Reading Course in the Bahamas!

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Dr. John

1 thought on “Pulse Diagnosis: Learning Ayurveda and Self-Healing”

  1. Recently, I was diagnosed with blockages in my carotid arteries and they attributed it to heavy smoking in my youth, I am almost 70. Although my arteries were not blocked enough to consider surgery, they sent me to the surgeon’s assistant who is a young Nurse Practitioner. She spent a long time reading the pulses throughout my body starting at my feet. She said she was trained to do this to ensure no other blockages in the body and reported my pulses were good.

    After decades of rough, arrogant medical treatments, I now find things changing. I was amazed to receive this hands-on gentle, yet thorough treatment.

    Could it be, Dr. John, that your dedication to these ancient teachings and your intention to spread this knowledge may in itself be of important service, even reaching into the collective consciousness?

    I am grateful for the translation of these ancient teachings that you give to us all. Because of your free newsletter, I have learned many things, including an excellent teaching for finally forgoing cannabis use, which has changed my life. Thank you, Dr. John.


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