Singing to breathe : help at hand for Long Covid

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

This morning I listened to a BBC piece on English National Opera lessons for Long Covid Sufferers. The English National Opera begins the UK- wide rollout of ENO Breathe, a new prescribed programme of singing, breathing and wellbeing, designed to help those recovering from the symptoms of Covid-19.

People with Long Covid will be taught the breathing techniques of top tenors to help them overcome symptoms in a new NHS England therapy. Imperial College and English National Opera (ENO) teamed together for this programme in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The programme uses the techniques used for singers to improve quality of breath and help manage the anxiety that breathlessness often produces. Singing is shown to help retrain breathing, so ENO Breathe is using lullabies and singing exercises to help improve those with shortness of breath.

It is hoped that this new scheme will support those struggling with the effects of Long Covid, now recognized across the NHS as an illness.

The ENO initially launched a trial in September 2020 in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which has proved to be successful. Of the 12 participants involved with the trial, 90% reported improvements in symptoms and emotional and physical wellbeing. Before entering the programme, the group’s average Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment score was 6.7, and by the end of the six-week programme that number had dropped to 3.2.”

I wrote this short piece after attending my virtual singing class with the Sage Gateshead.  After a warmup, including breathing exercises, we sang in harmonious wonderment. In my home it was just our new 10-week puppy who cowered under her blanky when I started to sing.

This ITV news video shows clips of the ENO singing trainer and participants with Long Covid relating how the programme is going.

The scheme will be rolled out to up to 1,000 patients and more than 25 post-Covid clinics across London and the North of England. The participating post-Covid clinics include The Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), Newcastle.

“Over the last 10 years, researchers have looked at how your body and mind respond to music and have explored ways of using music to help care for health. There’s increasing evidence that singing regularly as part of a group is good for your general health and wellbeing. A growing body of research suggests that group singing is especially good for people living with a long-term lung condition “(British Lung Foundation).

I’ve taken on-line classes with both Sage Gateshead and Opera North. Both are led by professional singers. Both include warm up and breathing techniques. Both are enjoyable and fun.

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