In his book “Qigong for Wellbeing in Dementia and Aging,” Stephen Rath, with his wife, Marcia, demonstrates the benefits of Qigong practice through the intersection of contemporary western studies with centuries old Chinese medical practices. With a deep personal investment in the wellbeing of those concerned with any aspect of dementia, Rath focuses his guide on the health of these individuals, with exercises that are appropriate for all, including the elderly and those with limited mobility.
The exercises, Rath shows, increase energy movement and organ function, improving bodily function and overall wellbeing for an aging population and the young alike. The book applauds the body’s natural ability to heal, and draws out that ability through stimulating movement series, meditative practices, and nutrition. Rath elucidates the principles behind Qigong and natural healing practices before detailing exercises using the hands and feet, exercises meant to release harmful emotions, facial massage exercises, and meditative sitting exercises.
These serial bodily movements form the primary focus of the text. However, as part of his holistic approach to healing, in his final section, Rath additionally explores the healing properties of food and nutrition. He explains the Chinese Medicine associations between food groups and parts of the body, and then details multiple easy to follow recipes. These recipes contain specific food combinations geared at maximizing body performance. Just as he illuminated the reasoning behind the exercise movements, Rath explains why these recipes are effective. While the quality taste of these meals could motivate many to try them, Rath’s clarity in explaining their health benefits makes their incorporation into any diet an obvious choice.
While the Lloyd Center aims to achieve a broadened understanding of the natural world around us, Rath takes that desire to learn from nature and turns it inward, examining the body’s own natural abilities. Rath writes that, “If there is one concept that Qigong emphasizes time and time again, it is that humans are intimately, if not inextricably, linked with the universe. One way to think about it is that the little universe of our bodies is connected energetically with cycles of energy in the big universe” (65). While the Lloyd Center’s studies of the environment emphasize the importance of healing—of environmental protection—in the “big universe,” Rath’s book focuses on the healing of the self and the body in a manner that supports the natural connection between the body and the natural world.
Rath’s clarity of style and affective synergy of eastern and western medical knowledge makes his guide both beneficial and accessible. It is the intent that those who engage with the guide will discover the healing power within themselves, thereby increasing their quality of life while also learning a new perspective on health, healing, and the connection between the body and the natural world.
All copies of “Qigong for Wellbeing in Dementia and Aging” sold through the Lloyd Center for the Environment, and Partners Village Store, are donated by Stephen and Marcia for the sole benefit of the Lloyd Center.