I have been going to Panther Brook for almost four years on a weekly basis for Integral Yoga. It is hard to express in words how it has truly changed my life. To me, the philosophy and approach seem to be perfect for most people. I see the world around me with more love and understanding.
I wanted to return to a kind of yoga practice that I had enjoyed as a young person and found the newspaper listing for free yoga classes. While I have attended different classes over the years, nothing has given me the richness and fullness of the Integral Yoga practice at the Spiritual Center at Panther Brook. Emerson Brooking guides us through a full two-hour session of relaxation, asanas (yoga postures), breathing, and meditation. There is an inclusive, non-competitive atmosphere that I appreciate – the young, the not-so-young, the fit and the not-so-fit all find room on the mats. He is particularly attentive to adapting the postures to each individual’s health concerns.
Emerson offers a variety of services, including biofeedback and stress management. I participated in a Saturday session and found the information very useful and relevant in my stressful world. I can’t always make the stress go away, but I feel like I have the tools to better deal with stress now. The grounds at the Spiritual Center are especially beautiful and can be enjoyed throughout the year. A silent retreat is offered once a month and is flexible enough for novice as well as advanced practitioners. My physical well being and my spiritual practice continue to grow as I continue my yoga classes. I am deeply appreciative to Emerson for devoting himself to this endeavor. .
My experience with yoga began after I read an advertisement in my local paper for free yoga classes. I was having some personal trials at the time and thought the exercise would do me some good. I had also heard that yoga was supposed to calm the mind, so I made the call and scheduled my first class.
When I arrived at the class, it was not what I expected. Dr. Brooking greeted me with a warm welcome and a lot of handouts. The papers explained both the process of yoga and the scientific reasoning behind what we were doing. The thorough introduction and study guides eased my anxiety.
I mentally break each yoga class into three parts. There are the stretching exercises and poses, deep relaxation, and meditation. Each posture can be performed from the most basic level to the most advanced, and Dr. Brooking assists with leading individual students to their levels of comfort. Although both my balance and flexibility have improved since beginning yoga, the poses have other benefits as well. For example, one pose targets the thyroid and another strengthens the lower back. Yoga and my regular walking routine are good ways to get my daily exercise.
The next part of yoga class is my favorite. The deep relaxation phase consists of tensing and relaxing all the muscles of the body. In so doing, the mind relaxes as well. This technique provides a great respite from the buzz of daily activities in my life as well as helping me go back to sleep if I wake during the night.
The last part of each yoga class is quite possibly the most important, but it has been the most difficult for me to grasp. Students are instructed to sit with "relaxed, focused, uninterrupted awareness" for approximately twenty minutes. This is supposed to relax the mind further and train it to let thoughts flow without reaction. Initially, I found my mind wandering a lot, thinking things like, "My back sure does hurt," or "I wonder if anybody else is doing this right."
I am pretty sure Dr. Brooking knew I was struggling, so he taught me a new meditation technique called "Serenity Meditation". This technique gives me something to focus on until my mind goes into its "relaxed, focused, uninterrupted awareness". This state still does not come naturally to me, but the technique has helped me to combat obsessive thoughts when they come unwanted into my brain.
My hope is to eventually train my brain to remain in a more relaxed state all the time and let anxious thoughts flow out as easily as they flow in. Dr. Brooking has assured me that this goal can be achieved with continued practice.
Yoga has been a threefold blessing to me. It helps me stay physically fit, enhances my mental capabilities, and offers spiritual growth. The spiritual aspect of yoga is as important as any student wants to make it, and it is possible for anyone from any religious background to practice yoga. I look at yoga as cleaning out my temple so God will want to spend a lot of time there.
Taking Yoga and stress management classes at Panther Brook is one of life's simple pleasures. The beautiful setting, which is far back in the woods, induces a deep sense of relaxation and over all well-being. Add the depth of knowledge Emerson has of the Asanas,along with his soothing calm voice, and you have the formula for a profound yoga experience.
Dr. Brooking is skilled and generous in his teaching. His balanced practice of Hatha Yoga and deep relaxation has led me and many others to revitalize our bodies and our focus.
Dr. Brooking opens his practice and his grounds to people seeking quiet, reflective solitude and personal well-being. I enjoy greater tranquility and vigor through practice with Emerson Brooking.
I knew this was the right place for me after the first session of yoga poses, relaxation, and meditation. Emerson has scads of yoga history and teaching, and a deep desire to pass it along – all for free.
I noticed changes quickly. After my 4th class, I meditated 30 minutes, when before 10 minutes was an eternity. And this 30 minutes just slipped away.
I do practice at home. I think that’s necessary though I’m not maniacal about it. I have become a calmer person which friends appreciate. I don’t fret or worry over small stuff. I know I have all the time I need.
In thanksgiving and in deep respect for my teacher, I shall always remember and continue to practice, the best compliment I can give.
I appreciate Emerson’s direction and comments. I appreciate his being.
I have participated in several of Emerson’s yoga classes and have been in impressed with his talent as a teacher. He has been involved in yoga for many years and has had extensive training, some that took place in other countries. He takes much care to insure that his students are learning and remaining safe at the same time. His classes are small enough that he can take time with each student, taking the time to instruct with care in a safe environment.
I would feel comfortable recommending him to anyone interested in beginning yoga as well as long-time yoga practitioners.
Like many others participating in Emerson's yoga classes, I first learned about the center by seeing the notice in the Northeast Georgian. The fact that the classes were free and one was in the morning was what perked my interest.
It wasn't until after getting to know Emerson that I learned his philosophy of not charging for something so essential to everyone's well being. He feels what he does is a gift and needs to be shared without charge. My admiration for Emerson increased greatly with this understanding and a spiritual kinship, which I feel deeply, developed.
As I began to take the classes, I discovered that Emerson includes, as a vital aspect of each class, a spiritual component. After the postures and relaxation, which prepares your body and mind, there is Kapalabhati (rapid breath) and Sukha purvaka (alternate nostril breathing), which leads us into silent meditation.
This for me is such a gift as contemplation has been a part of my faith journey for a long time. Doing the breathing is deepening my quiet time with the Lord as it is helping me to silence my mind which is so difficult for me to do.
Another aspect of the breathing, particularly the Kapalabhati, for me, a West Nile survivor, is that it is helping me lessen the build up of congestion in my lungs. I am still learning how to do it properly and still not doing it as it should be done. But, I see improvement and hopefully this will keep further health problems away.
Another way the breathing has helped me is by doing alternate nostril breathing when I have a problem falling asleep at night. I can lie in bed and quietly do the breathing without disturbing my husband and it works. Before very long my body has quieted and I am asleep. It is better than taking a sleeping pill for sure.
Emerson's yoga class is different than any other yoga class I have taken. One of the differences is his inclusion of eye exercises at the beginning of each class. These exercises have strengthened my eyes which have been weakened and dried out by use of antihistamines. I truly enjoy these and include them in my day particularly when I have been working on the computer or doing detailed embroidery. They really relax the eyes and make them feel better.
The main reason I was looking for a yoga class was to improve my balance. I work with many older adults, particularly women, and I have seen their lives altered irreversibly by a fall. I did not want that to happen to me as I age.
However, I have discovered so many more advantages to taking yoga than just balance. My whole body is much more powerful and firm. I am standing more erect, can sit in a crossed legged position (Lotus), do many of the postures with ease and flexibility and have a physical confidence I did not have before.
One of the benefits I did not expect was the friendships which have developed within our class. Emerson has a great ease about him and is not at all flustered by comments or laughter brought on by one of us. His openness and positive support creates a wonderful atmosphere of comradery in which to spend two hours every Thursday morning.
These yoga classes are so complete in all Emerson includes in them that I positively recommend them to everyone no matter what their level of physical ability or what they are looking to improve. He is supportive in all that you accomplish and gives advice in a gentle manner as to how to improve what you are doing. We are physically, mentally and spiritually improving and having a lot of fun doing so.
First let me tell you that I can now touch my toes. But more importantly I no longer have to use the chair to assist me. That was like tossing away a walker after a stroke. As long as I don't get carried away I can lunge without plunge, sit without plopping, and I can make like a tree!
More importantly, I find myself meditating and looking forward to doing it. Bedtime often is just a long extension of daytime - time spent lying on my back watching the waterfall of thoughts spilling all over themselves. I still have those kind of nights. But they are far fewer.
As I have spent time in self-reflection, I have forgiven myself but, more importantly, forgiven others. I am trying to live the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
The most transformational change in my life over the past two years has been the ability to slow down the disasters in my mind. We learned several methods of deep breathing and the Three Part Breath works best for me. We all have nights when sleep is elusive and tomorrow arrives early in your mind. A few deep breaths often helps me slip into sleep.
There aren't enough words to thank Dr. Brooking for the solace of the Spiritual Center and these wonderful classes. I always leave class feeling as though I am riding a cloud.
Thank you, Emerson. I look forward to more milestones in my self-development with you as my guide. I have a long road ahead but I feel like I have taken the road less traveled and I am better for it.
During the past year, I have attended free yoga classes at Panther Brook Spiritual Center.
Initially, I joined the class with the hope that yoga would improve my golf game. I am seventy-three years old and have several health issues, including three heart surgeries, numerous stents, and a spine fusion. I knew very little about yoga and certainly could not have foreseen the many areas of my life that would be impacted by my participation.
The classes are small enough that you never feel out of place. Emerson provides enough personal attention so you know you’re doing things correctly. I enjoy my classmates and we always have a good time together. We share our learning experiences. It’s always nice to hear how others are using what they’ve learned and how it is changing their lives. It encourages me to incorporate more of the practices into my own daily life.
Several breathing techniques are taught during the class, and students are often instructed to breathe through the nose, not the mouth. When I explained to Emerson that I had a life-long problem with my sinuses and that often I was so congested that I couldn’t breathe through my nose, he suggested that I start doing nasal rinses every day. He demonstrated the procedure and gave me a container to use.
The nasal rinses proved to be a powerful intervention and have dramatically improved the quality of my life. During my lifetime I’ve seen countless doctors and spent thousands of dollars trying to correct sinus problems. I've had reoccurring sinus infections that required heavy doses of antibiotics every six months. These infections impacted my sleep patterns, not allowing me to get continuous, restful sleep.
Not one of the health care professionals I consulted about this problem ever suggested nasal rinses. This simple procedure has allowed me to live this past year symptom free and enjoy many nights of restful sleep!
Every yoga class includes postures designed to improve balance. When I announced that, at my age, balance couldn’t improve, Emerson just smiled. During this past year my balance has improved remarkably! I started out having to hold on to a wall for support, and now I can do standing poses with no support.
My strength and flexibility have also increased. I use to look at some of my more flexible classmates and think “I’ll never be able to do that.” But now I can do many poses I first thought impossible and hold poses longer than I ever expected.
Every class includes a long period of deep relaxation. In the beginning I found it difficult to totally relax, but, with practice, deep relaxation has become much easier. My only problem now is getting so relaxed that I fall asleep. I’m still working on deeply relaxing without sleeping.
Classes also include a twenty minute meditation period. Initially, I found it very difficult to quiet my mind. Thoughts kept racing through. I asked Emerson to teach me the Serenity Meditation. With practice, I am more successful in quieting my mind.
I feel that my spiritual life, my relationship with God, has deepened during this past year. I feel more peaceful.
In summary, I’ve gotten a lot out of my yoga class and highly recommend you do this. It will enhance your life.
Sadly, my golf game hasn’t improved all that much….
I want to take just a minute to encourage you to visit Panther Brook Spiritual Center and discover for yourself some simple things you can do to add quality to each day.
I attended the class on Learning Relaxation / Stress Management Skills and was impressed with how much I learned in just a short time.
The experience of the instructor, Emerson Brooking, is evident by the variety of easy to understand information and illustrations provided. The techniques demonstrated are not complicated and with faithful practice will open new avenues for you to release that built up stress we all seem to occasionally accumulate. Positive lifestyle changes are demonstrated and explained but there is never any pressure to go beyond your self set boundaries
The facility is situated in a setting that encourages the quiet ways of nature. The building used for holding classes is clean and equipped to encourage learning.
I recommend Panther Brook Spiritual Center to anyone seeking to make positive life-style changes. I am looking forward to attending the yoga classes to continue discovering ways to increase and improve the quality of my life.
During my lifetime, I have participated in three different types of yoga classes. I have noted that each has its own distinct personality, making it difficult to compare the three. Emerson's class is a comfortable one. Everyone seems to have a good sense of humor and we laugh a lot. (This is a reflection of the warm spirit of our teacher.)
Although I sometimes get frustrated at my loss of balance and flexibility, and the postures aren't as easy for me as they once were, I can see a slow but sure improvement in that area. One of my goals is to exit the postures more gracefully and with more control!
Meditation comes a little harder, but knowing the benefits I have received from regular practice in the past keeps me trying.
At the end of the class period, I always feel calm, relaxed, and happy to be there. I am grateful for this opportunity to grow.
Thanks, Emerson. Namaste.
I had never been to yoga before I read about Dr. Brooking’s Panther Brook Spiritual Center in my local newspaper. Dr. Brooking taught me asanas and pranayamas that have changed me - mentally, spiritually, and physically - in profound ways. In addition, Dr. Brooking told me about the Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont. There I have found a treasured spiritual community and a place to learn and practice meditation with Roy Eugene Davis, a well-known teacher in the Kriya Yoga tradition.
I am profoundly grateful to Dr. Brooking for introducing me to people and practices that have greatly enhanced my life.
Your stress management workshop was very helpful. The setting at your retreat center is gorgeous and very comfortable. The training had the right combination of brief tutorials on essential principles, with mostly experiential work using feedback techniques and deep relaxation. I am a professional counselor and I have been frequently using the methods you taught about diaphragmatic breathing and the excellent handouts you provided.
“The Mind is a Drunken Monkey, in a Cage, Stung by a Scorpion.“ This part of Panther Brooks’ listing in the newspaper let me know I had found something good. That described my everyday mental state perfectly. I have been going to the Yoga and Meditation classes for about a year now and my body and mind thank me for it. The wonderful experience I have had in the classes (along with Emerson’s suggestion) have led me to begin my own yoga and meditation practice at home, which is also a boon. I find that the classes offer a perfect mixture of physical, mental, and spiritual toning and quieting.
I first met Emerson about fifteen years ago. I lived in Cumming at the time and I was coming to Cornelia once a week for art classes. I decided to try yoga, so I signed up for classes that were being held at Piedmont College and Emerson was the instructor. Having never tried yoga before, I found his method of teaching to be relaxed and beginner-friendly, making learning comfortable and enjoyable.
A few years later, once we had moved to Cornelia, I began looking for yoga classes. I tried a couple of different instructors but was unable to find one who’s style “meshed” with mine. One younger woman moved so quickly that I felt like I was doing cardio, not yoga!
One day I saw an article in the Northeast Georgian about Panther Brook and I was pleased to see that it was Emerson teaching yoga again. I signed up for classes last fall and I have been attending them ever since. Emerson has an easy going personality and a non-intimidating teaching method, which I find calming, enhancing the benefits of yoga. Suffering from ADD, I find the relaxation/meditation portion of class to be particularly helpful with silencing the chatter in my head.
I would recommend Panther Brook to anyone looking for a relaxed, peaceful environment to practice yoga.
Several months ago while visiting Sue Buak, she suggested I join her at her yoga class. I have participated in regular yoga classes in the past and now practice on my own. It had been a few years since my last formal class and I was worried I would miss a pose and get singled out as the "new girl". Dr. Brooking made me feel at home immediately. I have a fused ankle and some poses are a bit tricky but I was encouraged and offered several ways to adapt the poses to my needs.
I was truly impressed that, unlike most classes I have attended, Dr. Brooking doesn't just call out poses and then head to lunch. The class was a total body and mind experience. I wish I lived in this area and could attend on a regular basis.
I am a musician and spend much of my time practicing or performing. Both involve long hours staring at a music stand and watching the little black dots and lines on the page. As a result, I suffer eye strain, tension and headaches after several hours of playing.
Dr. Brooking taught me several eye movement exercises to help refocus my mind and relax my eyes. I've never really believed in true miracles but I think these exercises may qualify. I can complete my sessions with little or no pain and at a much lower stress level than before.
I am grateful to Dr. Brooking for helping me revitalize my music. I have noticed my concentration level has increased and, as a result, difficult passages are mastered with much less effort and angst. I have been proselytizing this to my musician friends and they all claim this has helped them as well. They really like the "voodoo eyes".
Thank you Dr. Brooking!
Emerson is a truly outstanding teacher! His classes are well worth the drive I make from North Carolina every week. I have been a student for over two years. The classes are wonderful. I always feel so much better after the class. Emerson has a wide breadth and depth of knowledge concerning yoga and meditation.
At first, the meditation portion was a struggle for me. Emerson was such a help to me. He had me come to class early and taught a meditation method. When that method was difficult for me, he was more than willing to teach me another that was helpful and worked for me. I am now more successful with meditation than ever before. I have made the postures and meditation part of my daily practice.
My daughter and son accompany me often to classes. He does a super job helping all ages and ability levels. Both of my children have made tremendous progress in the yoga postures. Emerson has provided a wonderful supportive atmosphere at Panther Brook. It has been a wonderful experience for my whole family.