This spine-focused stretching method eases back pain and improves posture.

Consider this Furthermore series further education for fitness. Here, we help define the terms that all athletes should know.

DEFINITION: It’s an acronym for a French term that translates to longitudinal osteoarticular decoaptation stretches. Fortunately, the technique is simpler than it sounds. 

Here’s a breakdown: “Longitudinal” means lengthwise, “osteoarticular” means relating to the bones and joints, and “decoaptation” means opening. Put them together, and you’re describing a stretching method that’s all about decompressing the body’s joints, predominantly those of the spine, explains Travis Jones, an ELDOA-certified trainer and personal training manager at Equinox Lincoln Park in Chicago.

Designed by a French osteopath, the ELDOA method has been around for more than 30 years. But stateside, it’s a newcomer in the regeneration scene.

While other stretching strategies prioritize the muscles, ELDOA relieves unhealthy compression between spinal joints by manipulating the fascia, which covers muscles and bones like fabric over a tent frame. “If you pull on the top left corner of the tent, the bottom right corner moves with it,” explains Scott Fournier, a Tier 3+ trainer at Yorkville in Toronto. In turn, ELDOA poses correct your posture, encourage blood flow, ease back pain, improve muscle tone, and increase body awareness.

Plus, they help you generate more power while slamming a medicine ball or playing tennis. “Think of the vertebrae like a stack of donuts,” Fournier adds. “Gravity compresses them and over time, they get jammed together so that if you try to rotate any one donut, the rest move with it.” ELDOA stretches add that necessary space between the vertebrae for better mobility.

Even if you already prioritize recovery, exploring new techniques makes you a more well-rounded athlete, says Stephane Vehrle-Smith, a Tier 3 trainer at Greenwich Avenue in New York City. 

TO DO IT: Perform the three postures in the slideshow below, demonstrated by Vehrle-Smith, before or after a workout (as often as every day) in addition to your warm-up or cool-down. Take deep, diaphragmatic breaths throughout.
Photography by Coty Tarr. Styling by Jamie Frankel. Art direction by Kathryn Marx.