Taiji, Qigong, and Immunity

In today’s Washington Post Health & Science section there is an article titled “Science tackles how immunities decline with age.”  The issue that prompts the article is, of course, the corona virus, and its particularly strong impact on older adults.  The article also points out that the seasonal flus have a similar impact on older adults.  For example, during the 2018-2019 flu season, three out of every four persons who died from the flu were age 65 and older.

In addition to older adults being more susceptible to flu, flu vaccines are less effective for older adults.  The seasonal flu vaccine tends to work for three out of five persons 17 or younger, but for only one of four adults 50 and older.

The article discusses in detail the microbiology of the immune system and the work of T and B cells as well as that of antigen-presenting cells.  One of the factors in the decline of immunity in older adults is that these cells become fewer and less effective in performing their various functions as we age.

My Qigong teacher, Dr. Jwing Ming Yang, always stressed in his Qigong seminars the importance of three ingredients vital to the cells’ functioning and replacement in the human body:  oxygen, nutrients (primarily glucose), and Qi (bioelectricity).  These ingredients must be abundantly available in the human body and able to circulate to the places where they are needed for cells to function efficiently and reproduce abundantly.

Unfortunately, as we age, the supply of these vital ingredients tends to decline as does the body’s ability to distribute them to where they are needed.  As we age, we tend to breathe more shallowly.  Consequently, the supply of oxygen declines.  We tend to accumulate more body fat and become less active with age.  Both tendencies result in slowing and impairment of the circulation of blood, which, of course, is the distributor of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

The practice of Taiji and Qigong and the lifestyle changes that we encourage people to undertake when they begin their training help to combat the harmful tendencies that accompany aging.  The techniques of movement and relaxation as well as the cultivation and conservation of Qi that are the essence of these arts promote the circulation of blood and Qi.  Deep breathing, also integral to these arts, helps increase the supply of oxygen to the body.

The article focuses on efforts to improve the effectiveness of vaccines in older adults, which, of course, is very important, but the overall effect is disempowering to the average person because it implies that everything having to do with the effectiveness of our immune systems depends on medical science.  Dr. Yang points out in a series of articles he has written in response to the corona virus crisis that we have become too focused on medical science to the neglect of the things we can do for ourselves.  The things we can do for ourselves include lifestyle changes that improve our health, which, of course, include practicing the arts of Taiji and Qigong.

The Washington Post article is based on a report produced by Knowable Magazine. The complete report can be read at knowablemagazine.org.

Dr. Jwing Ming Yang’s articles in response to the corona virus crisis have been reposted by permission  on Qi Emements’ website.

About Qi Elements Taijiquan & Qigong

I am the director and chief instructor at Qi Elements Center for Taijiquan and Qigong in Herndon, Virginia. I have been a Taijiquan and Qigong seminar student of Dr. Yang, Jwing Ming since 1996 and am certified by Dr. Yang as a full instructor of YMAA Qigong.
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