The Lancet, IPF and COPD

It’s not every day you get a mention in the top medical journal! What a nice surprise to see that my more alternative and effective methods helping breathing issues, had been acknowledged.
I have, for a number of years, been helping people with their breathing issues like IPF and COPD, using massage and singing techniques. I have non singing clients with asthma, IPF etc., but also singers with these conditions, too. Often they can manage pretty well, but if a cold catches them, it can end up in hospital. ANYTHING that helps good breathing is worth learning!
Singing breathing is, of course, diaphragmatic and people who suffer from breathing issues tend to be chest breathers. It seems to work very well. The massage can release the tensions and a lot of congestion and it gets the breather to feel how different a diaphragmatic breath truly is. With singing or speaking exercises, work on posture etc we often manage to get a dramatic change in breath and life.

I met Howard, at a concert my choir was giving, in Dawlish. He had just been diagnosed with IPF – a life limiting fibrosis in the lungs. I hadn’t heard of it before.
I had happened to mention that I worked as a singing teacher at some point that evening and he came to talk to me after the concert, to see if I could help. We started to work together and to find ways to get him to connect his breath into the body again, to stand taller and to learn to breathe as he walked. He also had a lovely singing voice! I used a lot of the exercises that we use in our choir warm up and a lot of massage to release the mucus off his chest. After every session there was a clear improvement.

Howard is an activist and once diagnosed, joined support groups, pushed for greater recognition of the disease and volunteered for drug test trials. He has worked up and down the country, despite his condition, to be an advocate for more help in diagnosing and finding drugs to help this condition.
My choir, The Lost Sound, have sung a benefit concert for his Plymouth based support group, and I’ve been into the group to work on their breathing as well. There is so much more to do.
Howard was doing all he can to promote information and was interviewed for The Lancet, a leading medical journal, he described the work that we did.
” We began to meet once every 2 weeks. In just a couple of months, my forced vital capacity reading went from 70% to 95%—it is truly amazing how learning to breathe properly can really help. The fact that my lung capacity decreased back to 80% while my coach was away, just shows how much of an impact the meetups have had. I have also learned how to recover from breathlessness and return to stable breathing when out walking, especially after walking up slopes.”

As I write, they are all in lockdown due to the virus. This virus leaves a fibrosis of the lung and as yet, we don’t know what that will develop into, as we age. We will have to wait, but for sure, Howard’s campaigning has made a difference to the knowledge the average GP has about this disease.

I am trialing a Zoom workshop for Breathless Singers very soon and if it works well, I will continue to run it as a workshop after Lockdown. Get in touch if you are interested.

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Sandra Smith is the director of The Lost Sound Dartmoor Folk Choir, visit their dedicated website to find out more.

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