by Sonia Potter
“No pain, no gain” is a common exercise motto. But what if there were a way to become better at our typical going-to-the-gym routine that asked us to move away from pain and effort?
Enter the Feldenkrais method.
Terry Cranendonk is one of thousands of Feldenkrais practitioners in the country, but he is the only one in Akron. At LifeSource Yoga, the actor and director offers “somatic education,” or movement therapy, to a variety of people.
Commonly practiced in Europe and often falling under the umbrella of mindfulness practice, Feldenkrais is a way of learning how to move more efficiently with minimal effort.
There are two ways of learning the Feldenkrais method. One is known as “awareness through movement,” which takes place in group classes. Terry verbally leads classes through a series of slow, subtle, small movements with the intention of helping his students notice and understand how they move.
For those who want a more individualized approach, there are one-on-one sessions, known as “functional integration,” which involve physical touch rather than mere verbal guidance.
In either case, Terry emphasizes that “what’s important about the lesson is how the people doing the movements pay attention to them, and pay attention to themselves.” Movements are structured intentionally to encourage awareness.
For example, Terry says, “I might ask you to move your head in a particular direction, perhaps to the right or to the left, and you might begin to notice, ‘oh, when I turn my head a little bit, something’s happening in my shoulder.’ And then you might start to notice, ‘oh, there’s movement in my pelvis, as well, actually, when I turn my head. And there’s movement in my knees,’ and so forth.”
Ideally, in these small, subtle movements, the brain begins to take stock of how the body moves habitually, and in bringing awareness to the movement, it learns how to make more efficient choices.
People from all walks of life can use the Feldenkrais method. “Some come [to my classes] because they’ve injured themselves, or they have chronic pain, or stress,” Terry says. “Some people have even more serious chronic problems like spinal stenosis or neuropathies in their hands or feet.” Many Feldenkrais practitioners also work with people living with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.
Other people use the Feldenkrais method simply to improve their flexibility and coordination, which can make it a valuable tool for performers, athletes, dancers and actors.
Terry learned about Feldenkrais through his work in the theater. As a former actor in Akron’s New World Performance Laboratory, he remembers the director leading them through Feldenkrais lessons from one of Moshé Feldenkrais’s books before rehearsals.
Terry felt the effects of Feldenkrais immediately. “I would come up off the floor, and I would feel taller, or like my weight on my feet was so much more balanced. I thought it was just extraordinary work,” he remembers fondly. “Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought I might like to pursue it one day.”
And 10 years ago, that’s just what he did. He spent four years (and a total of 800 hours) training to become a practitioner. “It was one of the greatest things I ever did,” he says.
Now, Terry holds classes at LifeSource Yoga in Fairlawn, where he is much-loved by his students. One of his loyal students, Lydia Bozeman, says Feldenkrais “makes [her] more aware of [her] body and muscles.” She loves how relaxing and fun Terry’s classes are.
An important thing to remember about Feldenkrais is this: “You’re trying to learn something about how you move. You’re not trying to stretch anything; you’re not trying to make anything stronger. You’re trying to learn something,” Terry says.
“It’s very important there not be a lot of noise or distraction, and ‘pain and effort’ is noise and distraction,” which is why, Terry emphasizes, he asks people not to strain themselves. In doing so, people are able to do other activities — like yoga, Pilates or going to the gym — in a more efficient, effortless way.
“We are the opposite of ‘no pain, no gain,’” he says. “We say, ‘if there’s pain, there will be no gain.’”
More information about the Feldenkrais method can be found at feldenkrais.com. Terry’s class schedule can be found at lifesourceyoga.com
Sonia Potter is a senior at the University of Akron, majoring in English.
(photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor)