Yellow River Center

Yellow River Center

1466 Lanier Place, NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

offering a choice for managing personal health and well being

Who We Are






Our Story

Advisory Board




Our mission is to teach practical ways to reduce stress in everyday life that promote a sublime sense of health and well-being.

Our vision is to challenge the status-quo of our traditional health management system that separates preventive and curative healthcare by empowering people with proven techniques that maximize their own biological resources.

  • Yellow River Center began with a love of a very special river called (can you guess?) Yellow River that flows through the historic mill town of Porterdale, Georgia.  The riparian buffer along the river offers a peaceful, natural habitat for both plants and animals.  One of our principals, Ferah Withrow, Ph.D., lives near the river, and her love of the place led us to name our preventive health non-profit after this natural treasure.  Ferah came to the U.S. from French-speaking Switzerland to practice psychotherapy in Atlanta.

    Ferah is passionate about healthy living.  She is a master gardener, an accomplished cook and is actively involved in the local community.  In addition to her skills as a yoga instructor, her love for the Yellow River is infectious.

  • Ferah's long time close friendship with Doris Williams, MHP, spawned frequent conversations about what was realistic to achieve in the field of preventive mental health.  Doris has spent most of her career responding to the mental health challenges precipitated by the de-institutionalization of mental health services in the 1980's.  When community-based support fell short of the need, Doris founded Compeer Atlanta.  Compeer's task was to recruit and train volunteers to extend friendship to people diagnosed with mental illness.  Public and private funding struggles finally forced the program to discontinue, but many remember their Compeer friends being among their most significant relationships.

    Doris founded and served as Executive Direcor of Compeer Atlanta which provided crucial lifelines of friendship to people with diagnosed mental illness.  Compeer volunteers often meant the difference that enabled their friends to become part of the community.  As an experienced tai chi instructor, Doris has helped many learn to experience the benefits of meditation in motion.

  • After exploring significant achievements in the field, the two friends became intrigued by reported successes using the meditative techniques of mindfulness.  Both had previous experience with other approaches.  Ferah is a trained yoga practitioner and instructor, and Doris has long experience practicing and teaching tai chi.  They approached Bob Wells, M. Div., with whom Doris had worked, both at Compeer and teaching tai chi, who found their vision most exciting, and the three set out to create Yellow River Center as a way to make it all happen.

    Bob owns his own media production company and has produced photographic, film, video and printed materials for a wide variety of clients in government, medicine, education, real estate, manufacturing,  financial services and broadcasting.  He has filmed all over the United States and in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Bob is currently an instructor in Georgia State University's Center for Integrative Healthcare Research.

  •  In 2010, life threw Larry Kahn a curveball with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. As a Babe Ruth League baseball player in high school, the first two curveballs Larry ever saw knocked him on his backside. He hit the third one through the box for a single and has never backed away from a curveball since.  While many other good people are leading the charge for a cure, Larry and his wife, Ellie, have focused on helping newly diagnosed people with Parkinson’s learn how to live better with the disease. He has become a vocal advocate for vigorous exercise as a primary therapy for PD. He is the President PD Gladiators, Inc., a Georgia nonprofit corporation, the mission of which is to educate the public, people with Parkinson’s disease, and the medical community about the role of exercise in slowing the progression of PD and to make community-based exercise programs available to people with PD and their caregivers. He also is a director on the Board the Delgado Boxing Foundation, which seeks to establish programs to mentor troubled children and to provide boxing training therapy to adults with disabilities.

    Larry is a retired tax attorney who negotiated the fast-paced world of domestic and international mergers and acquisitions for 20 years. When he’s not hard at work penning suspense novels, he is, along with his wife Ellie, currently negotiating a balanced approach to living with Parkinson’s Disease.  He believes tai chi and other mindfulness techniques should be part of a holistic approach to managing the disease, along with medicine, exercise, diet, sleep and a healthy dose of laughter.


An Exciting New Venture


In March, 2012, graduate students in Occupational Therapy at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia, presented a unique opportunity to Yellow River Center.  They had read about new research findings in Oregon published in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows significant benefits for people with Parkinson's Disease who learn and practice tai chi.  They offered to help Yellow River Center reach out through the American Parkinson Disease Association regular monthly support groups to inform people with Parkinson's Disease about the benefits of learning and practicing tai chi.


We currently offer workshops in two metro-Atlanta locations, and in 2014, Yellow River Center joined the PD Gladiators Metro Atlanta Fitness Network, which serves as a one=stop-shop for exercise programs for people with Parkinson's disease.


These workshops have been a wonderful learning experience for Yellow River Center as we continue to gain better understanding of the issues faced by people with PD and develop teaching methods that prove most helpful.  We've learned to adapt tai chi, qigong and mindfulness meditation to enable practice at all stages of PD.






Advisory Board

John Nardo, M.D., was Board Certified in Internal Medicine before pursuing his love of Psychoanalytic Psychiatry.  After several years as head of the Psychiatric Training Program at the Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Nardo went into private practice until his retirement.  Having practiced in both physical and mental medicine, Dr. Nardo is a passionate advocate against the overuse and misuse of pharmaceutical products in mental health.

Fumin Xue, M.B.A., became a practitioner of tai chi out of desperation at his deteriorating health.  Overweight and stressed from a high-pressure business career, Fumin has not only turned his life around, he has become an advocate for promoting tai chi.  Currently working as a visiting scholar in Georgia State's new Center for Integrative Healthcare Research, Fumin is actively involved the the mission being pursued at Yellow River Center.

Janet Bull, M.D., is the Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer at Four Seasons in North Carolina.  Janet is passionate about improving care for patients with advanced illness, surrounding them with love and compassion as they transition into hospice care. She has witnessed as many births as deaths, and finds the similarities uncanny. She states, "There is a sacredness that surrounds them both. A good birth and a good death are filled with the same ingredients - laughter, tears, peacefulness, joy, love, and an incredible sense of awe."

Eliot Royston, M.D., is a very compassionate, loving, board-certified doctor with a huge sense of humor. He takes time with all of his patients. He's known as a doctor that will never turn a patient away. He always puts his patients first. He's been practicing as a doctor for 3 decades now and has carefully built a large referral network of the best doctors. He cares about all of his patients and follows through with them to ensure health and happiness.

Susan Levy is a psychotherapist in private practice in Atlanta, who provides therapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups on such issues as health and wellness, death and dying, grief and bereavement, chronic illness, life transitions, stress, and anxiety.  She is a compassionate therapist, motivating educator, articulate speaker, captivating writer, inspiring course developer, and devoted teacher who is committed to helping others with their emotional, spiritual, and physical healing.


W. Spurgeon Briggs is a Senior Manager for AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services to both public and private sector clients with projects on all seven continents.  GIS systems are his special expertise, and he has served on local, state, regional and international projects.  Most recently he has been involved in Water Resource Infrastructure planning as it relates to total water resource management.  Newly diagnosed with PD, Spurgeon has become a valued advocate for Yellow River Center.



Andy Peck  is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Georgia. He has instructed courses in stress management, violence prevention and martial arts at Emory University for more than 20 years. Currently he is actively working with recovering addicts and displaced persons in their efforts to transition into full employment and affordable housing. His approach to counseling is faith based while encouraging increased self awareness both physically and mentally. His passion is to bring about positive change and enhanced life skills through education, coaching, counseling and mentoring.



Marco Coelho, MS, OT., is graduate of the Brenau University School of Occupational Therapy where his research efforts centered around creative and alternative interventions for individuals with Parkinson's Disease.  He currently serves as an adjunct instructor for Brenau University, and is a staff therapist with Ability Rehab, a local company dedicated to providing therapy services for older adults residing in assisted and independent living facilities throughout Atlanta.  He is an international speaker on the topic of occupational therapy and wellness and has presented at multiple conferences throughout the United States. Marco is also an elite Ironman triathlete and ultra runner.

Samuel Evans has been practicing and teaching Tai Chi (sitting & standing), Kungfu & Yoga (sitting & regular) since 1984. For five years, he taught martial arts at Clark Atlanta Univesity I young inner-city adults. He is as passionate as he is skilled and has applied his teaching to assist people with a variety of conditions such as Arthritis, Heart Attacks, Strokes, PD and Alzheimers to improve balance, focus, breathing and internal strength.  Sam helps people to overcome physical, mental and spiritual conditions, and Yellow River Center is delighted to include him among our outstanding instructors and as a member of our Advisory board.


Yellow River Center Offers Workshops Without Walls

We know that busy people value convenience.  Yellow River Center will conduct our workshops at any location suitable for the size of the group and the activities being offered.  We are currently teaching tai chi to two groups of people with Parkinson's disease.  Let us know you needs, and we will make every effort to come to you.


Our home location is a piece of land on the Yellow River near historic Porterdale, Georgia.  it's a place of unparalleled beauty that truly calms the mind.

Porterdale Mill

Focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft, can you be like a baby?                - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 54.1, 4-5



A brief history of contemplative meditation suggests this is an idea whose time has come.


Many world cultures have developed traditions and techniques for meditation.  The experience is often described as a spiritual, even mystical connection with the whole universe. Scentific thinking, on the other hand, including modern medicine, has distanced itself from all  thinking and practice that can be considered superstitious. Living a healthy regarded as different from searching for meaning in life.


Yet, despite misgivings, physicians have long recognized that the mind influences physical health in ways that are not fully understood. During the 1980’s and 90’s, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering work at the University of Massachusetts Medical School introduced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to the medical community and demonstrated the usefulness of meditative practices for pain management and emotional regulation.  The concurrent development of computerized brain imaging technology allowed scientists to measure electrical and magnetic activity in the brain as well as subtle changes in blood flow.  Neuroscientists can now observe, in real time, what is occurring in the brain physiology of both experienced and novice practitioners during meditation.


In 2004, the Mind and Life Institute in Boulder, CO, founded their Summer Research Institute to further expand and legitimize the field by giving scientists and contemplatives a place to share, learn, network and innovate.  Ideas that often grew out of these interactions were eligible for pilot grants in the form of Varela Awards. These awards not only seeded the field through research at universities, colleges and laboratories across the country and the world, but also helped stimulate an explosion in research that has been published in a range of highly respected peer-reviewed scientific journals.


This newly-named field of Contemplative Studies has expanded to include the humanities, philosophy, social sciences, and education into the mix.  Emory University, for example, established a Collaborative for Contemplative Studies within the Department of Religion that works closely with the Dalai Lama, who has enthusiastically participated in exploring how eastern practices can work together with western science to advance understanding. Sophisticated studies across different cultures are finding practical application in clinical and educational settings.


Scientific interest in the claimed benefits of eastern medical practice, often termed "alternative medicine," has produced significant results. Dr. Tingsen Xu, also at Emory University, was among the first to scientifically study the role that practicing tai chi chuan can play to help prevent falling among seniors.  Balance in tai chi is both physical and mental, and the practice is often called Meditation In Motion.  The eastern practice of yoga has become very popular in the West as many have learned new ways of thinking about how the human mind and body interacts.


More recently, pressures steming from the rising cost of medical care have forced greater emphasis on preventive health care.  It is far less costly to stay healthy than to restore health once it has become compromised.  Eastern practice has always followed this approach. Therefore, instead of labeling non-western practices as "alternative health," the new buzz word is "integrative healthcare."  Georgia State University, for example, has extablished a new Center for Integrative Healthcare Research that will add to the science that supports and encourages healthcare practitioners and health insurance companies to incorporate new approaches to prevention.


 As the Yellow River Center joins the network of existing organizations that are exploring the possibilities, we expect the next decade to produce an even greater growth in research and application.  We hope to enhance individual and societal mental and physical fitness, alleviate suffering, and increase overall well-being.

Research is of vital importance at Yellow River Center.  As scientific research adds to our understanding of how the mind and body work together, we try to integrate the findings into our workshops.  We are particularly interested in incorporating findings from multiple fields.  We know how difficult it is to incorporate new behaviors and habits into one's own lifestyle, and we are constantly exploring ways to enable healthful living.   As possibilities for concrete action increase, we have an opportunity to become better human beings.  To get started, we reprint articles as they come to our attention:


   - Tai Chi Beneficial to People With Parkinson's - Israel's Top 10 Strides Against Parkinson's - The Compassion Instinct - Health Care for a Changing Work Force