On a chilly autumn evening, on the fourth floor of a beautiful Alt-bau in Kreuzberg, our USC sports explorers tried an ELDOA class to find out why it’s the ultimate addition to your workout routine…
Sarah King’s ELDOA classes are well-liked. So much so, in fact, that you need to sign up in advance if you want to get a spot. It’s unusual for a class so niche to be this popular – and it’s stranger still that this is only the fourth class that Sarah King’s taught in this location. But try ELDOA once and you’ll keep coming back for more.
The method was created by French osteopath Guy VOYER (he spells his name all-caps) to cure back pain, but while researching he managed to unlock cures to much more than that. “He found that if you create space or relax the tissues between the vertebrae then any muscle, tissue or fascia that is served by those nerves also benefits from the exercise,” Sarah explains. “So people who do these exercises will come back and say their neck feels better plus they don’t get headaches anymore. Or their back feels better and they’re not getting menstrual cramps anymore.”
VOYER teaches postures and bodyweight exercises that stretch deep into the fascia and tissues in specific areas of the body. “That’s why it’s so hard,” Sarah says. “Because you’re using your own tension and strength to create space in the joint. There’s no machines, no props, it’s all just you and your body – which is very empowering.” Sarah says that for many people with chronic pain, the benefits they feel after just one class are so apparent they immediately make it a permanent fixture in their lives – which is probably why the class is so full tonight.
Sarah sits on a mat at the front of class next to a moon-shaped globe light. Her face is calm and relaxed, bathed in the warm glow of lamps and candles, and she speaks in a soft American accent as she gives the newcomers a head’s up on what to expect. “If you’ve never done this class before, you should know that we’ll be holding certain postures for about a minute each,” Sarah says. “It might feel very strange at first and if you need to take a break, don’t collapse to the ground – make sure you come out of your posture slowly.” This is the first flexibility class I’ve ever been to that comes with a warning ahead of it – but then again this isn’t a normal way to stretch.
To warm up we hold our hands above our heads, turn our wrists outwards and stretch through our pelvis. Breathing is a big part of enhancing these stretches, and as I extend my spine more than I ever thought possible, Sarah talks us through the connectivity of each bodyand recites scientific-sounding words – like ‘myofascia’ and ‘biomechanics’. She tells us to breathe into our pelvis which I never do get the hang of, but it’s calming to listen to Sarah’s explanations, even if I don’t understand a single word.
Each exercise is designed to create space between the vertebrae in our backs to relieve tension and reduce pain. Sarah’s background is in Pilates, but it was friends of hers in Louisiana who encouraged her to try her first ELDOA class. “I finally went to a group class and when I came out I was like… “What has happened to my body?”
After that, she was hooked. “I needed to know how it worked, so I started studying it. I’d always had lower back and joint pain and I felt the difference immediately.” The founding father “thinks it’s pointless to do manual therapy if you don’t do proper exercise alongside it – not that you have to do ELDOA alongside other exercise and sport – though they do go well together and he would certainly encourage this,” Sarah says.
This class is incredible for flexibility and mobility. Each posture and stretch focusses on a different part of the body and throughout the hour long class Sarah directs us into impossible positions. We fold up like origami – arms, legs, shoulders and heads at strange and unusual angles. Even our eyes get involved – we have to look in specific directions with each stretch, under strict instructions not to close our eyes. At times I feel my shoulders might dislocate or my spine might stretch beyond return but after each exercise I feel my body loosen and relax, unravelling like a ribbon. Minute by minute I’m becoming a looser, bendier version of my former self and it feels amazing. No wonder this is addictive.
For the grand finale of our ELDOA class we move our mats to the side and lie with our legs up, so our butts touch the wall. Sarah leads us through a series of exercises that “create space in the sacroiliac joint” (that’s in your pelvis in case you don’t know).
Guy VOYER believes that “you are your own best therapist,” and doing just one or two ELDOA exercises every day is beneficial. Sarah’s classes teach you exactly how to do them and there’s no doubt from the energy and joy radiating from her that Sarah absolutely loves what she does. She’s on a mission to get people pain-free without heavy medication and expensive physiotherapy. “I started out as an acupuncturist working with pain and I realised that a lot of people’s pain patterns were because they weren’t exercising properly or they had bad posture. I’ve done most of the ELDOA training programme – mostly in the US, and now I live in Berlin I travel to London for training, too.” For Sarah studying the body is a never-ending source of fascination, and there will always be more to learn. “Soon I’m going to Montreal to study the pelvis in detail.” Sarah laughs happily. “It’s a very expensive and time-consuming obsession.”
If you’d like to feel the full benefits of the ELDOA technique, try out one of Sarah’s Authentic Body Control classes with Urban Sports Club.
And take a look at Sarah’s website to find out more about her methods and classes in Berlin.
Find out more about the extensive benefits of the ELDOA method on their official website.