By Danielle O’Connell
One of Joe Pilates’ most famous quotes is “If your spine is flexible you are young; if your spine is stiff you are old.” The spine and core are so important to the health of the body as a whole and yet so many people have back pain, poor posture, “tech neck” and injuries as a result of one thing: Gravity. This is the one thing that is always weighing down on our bodies, causing compression and tissue damage, making muscles tighter and weaker and more tense. Nobody can escape the pull of gravity, and the cumulative time we spend under its force just increases as we age.
I’ve been a Pilates teacher for over 20 years and several years back I was looking for a more specific way to help my clients. As a Pilates teacher and fitness trainer I noticed that the types of people coming to Pilates were looking for a safe, more mindful way of beginning to exercise again after surgery or childbirth or physical therapy. Many of my clients were coming to me with minor – yet persistent and seemingly mysterious – aches and pains. They just wanted to feel good and be able to do the things they enjoy. So I began studying deeper anatomy because I wanted to be able to understand their injuries and help them feel better with exercise.
Then one day I saw my friend Ilaria Cavagna had posted on social media that she was leading an ELDOA workshop. I was curious and hopeful that this method could give me the tools I needed to help my clients. So jumped right into a weekend-long training. This new method turned out to be just what I was looking for, and by combining Pilates with ELDOA I was able to help my clients relieve aches and pains, combat morning stiffness, prevent injuries and improve their Pilates practice.
What is ELDOA?
In order to understand ELDOA, you first have to understand the role of fascia in the body. Fascia is the connective tissue that is everywhere in the body….it encases our muscles, muscle fibers, and organs, it makes up our bones, ligaments and tendons and basically holds us together. Fascia is what provides continuity and connectivity throughout the body. It is also through the fascia where many nerves, receptors and blood vessels pass and therefore provides the intelligence and communication of the brain to the body.
ELDOA is a method that puts tension on the lines of fascia in the body in order to create space at a specific joint. When we use the muscular strength of the body to put tension on the fascia we can actually help open spaces between bones and help to decrease pressure in the joints. This is extremely effective for helping to relieve spinal disc pain and also for creating awareness, strength, flexibility and resilience to avoid further injuries.
At first the ELDOA positions felt very strange and super difficult to do! Over time I felt such a difference in my body’s ability to hold the positions as well as more mobility in my joints which translated to better execution of my Pilates practice, both on the mat and apparatus.
There is actually a word to describe this action of creating space, and that is “decoaptation”. “ELDOA” is actually a French acronym which in English would translate as LOADS: Longitudinal Osteo Articular Decoaptation Stretches. An ELDOA posture creates space at very specific spaces within the spine. Each level of the spine has a different position that puts tension on the fascia, releasing pressure on the disc at that spot.
ELDOA was developed by a French Osteopath named Guy Voyer, MD. He was also a Judo expert and physical therapist before developing ELDOA postures. He studied many different types of therapeutic movement methods including, …..and took elements of each in order to create the ELDOA postures.
What are the benefits of ELDOA?
There are many benefits! Just to name a few:
- Better body awareness and alignment
- Improved nerve function
- Healthier spinal discs
- Better circulation
- Improved strength
- Improved flexibility
- Improved mobility
- Improved balance/stability
All of this results in less pain and injury risk. ELDOA can be done anywhere with virtually no equipment and once you learn the exercises, you can do them on your own.
Another great thing about ELDOA is that it can be done by anyone at any fitness level. From pro athletes working to improve their performance to the person who sits all day long at a desk who is having low back pain, to dentists and hairstylists who are on their feet or leaning over putting pressure on their spine all day long. There are ways to customize the postures for each individual person and their specific needs.
Try Your First ELDOA Session
If you are interested in experiencing ELDOA yourself then I invite you to join me during this ELDOA video session. This is the very first ELDOA session that I teach to all of my clients.
Why the combo of Pilates and ELDOA?
Pilates is amazing and no matter what school or lineage you come from, it involves learning new ways to connect the mind and body for strength, stretch and control. Every exercise uses the whole body to move and stabilize all the while lengthening, strengthening, stretching, circulating and breathing. There is no doubt that Pilates helps the body heal holistically and on many levels and that the exercises help improve the health of the spine.
There is an amazing synergy between these two methods. They are very different, yet complementary to each other.
- Pilates helps ELDOA: you can use a Pilates session to provide a thorough warm-up, which is recommended before doing an ELDOA exercise.
- ELDOA also helps Pilates: you will notice better awareness, less pain, more flexibility and the ability to execute the Pilates exercises.
While Pilates is more global, (feeling the whole body with one exercise), ELDOA is much more targeted in terms of where the decoaptation takes place, because each space between vertebrae requires a different position. While Pilates is very dynamic and moves through varied ranges of motion, ELDOA involves holding a specific pose for one full minute. Pilates can provide the awareness and low-impact warming up of the body that is needed to prepare the body to effectively do an ELDOA.
Just as Pilates is a practice, and takes time to learn (just like playing an instrument or learning a language takes practice), ELDOA has many important details that take practice before a person can fully digest and understand how to do it all at once. So when teaching an ELDOA we break it down and teach the details one at a time, otherwise known as “factors of progression”. This means we teach an exercise little by little so the person can process all the tiny movements in order to do the exercise as precisely as possible. My clients even report that just the factors of progression feel good!
Learning to teach the ELDOA method has expanded my understanding of both movement and functional anatomy (click here for information on ELDOA training.) Therefore I am better able to “see the body in front of me” and customize exercises and break them down and build them up more clearly for my clients. This helps my clients perform the exercises better, which makes them feel good, which makes them look forward to coming back. It’s hard work but it’s worth it every last second.
About the Author
Danielle O’Connell is a personal trainer, certified Pilates teacher and ELDOA trainer. She lives in NYC with her husband, 2 children and her dog Nacho. To learn more visit www.urbanwellness.com where you can find online Pilates/ELDOA programs, classes and a free full body morning wakeup warmup!