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.
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.
Lie flat on your back on the floor, with arms above your head (palms facing the ceiling), glutes against a wall, and legs straight up against it. Reach your heels toward the ceiling, draw your toes toward your shins, and press your back into the floor. Draw your head and arms away from your body, then reach fingers toward the floor so the palms face away from you. Breathe deeply, and hold for 1 minute.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight and spread apart as far as possible, with toes pointed up. With a tall, stacked spine, press your head back so your chin moves toward your neck, then stretch your head up toward the ceiling. With your arms extended overhead in a V, push your hands up with wrists extended as far as possible and fingers folded toward the back of your forearms. Breathe deeply, and hold for 1 minute.
Sit cross-legged, pressing the knees and tailbone toward the floor. Pull your head as far away from your tailbone as possible to create a long, straight spine. Shift your head back so your chin moves closer to your neck. Join the palms of your hands and place them on top of your head, with fingertips pointing up, wrists resting on head, elbows pressed back. Breathe deeply. Hold for 1 minute, then repeat with the opposite leg on top.