What is going on when an acupuncturist takes your pulse?
So much more than counting the beat. There are four parts of investigation: looking, listening/smelling, palpating and asking. Pulse taking is part of palpation - it is a tactile inquiry. There is an exchange of information that occurs during the palpation and this begins the therapeutic effect of the interaction. From superficial exchanges and assessments by both parties there is now a distinct line crossed into roles of practitioner and patient. Beyond the actual pulse the tissue is palpated here, regions of the hand and forearm correspond to and offer insight into different areas of the body. Texture, temperature, and humidity are taken note of. The pulse in different locations corresponds to different body systems. Rhythm, intensity, texture, and speed all reflect different patterns. There are several varieties of pulse locations used by different traditions. Despite these differences there is no obvious advantage to any one over another.
However when two or more pulse locations are palpated and compared as in the style taught by Dr Jae Hoon Kim, this does offer an obvious benefit. Using the bilateral carotid and radial pulses to evaluate the ratio of Yin to Yang and left to right we are able to determine where in the body a deficiency or excess exists and then restore harmony. When Yin and Yang are out of balance it's analagous to standing on one foot while balancing something on your head and juggling a set of plates. How are you going to answer the phone? In other words if Yin and Yang are out of balance and a virus or trauma comes along, how capable is your body of responding effectively to it? If Yin and Yang are restored to harmonious balance the body can deal effectively with the challenges that life presents.
"The pursuit of health is invariably a spiritual quest."