English National Opera singers share opera breathing techniques to help “Long …

January 28, 2021, 11:45 | Updated: January 28, 2021 11:48

ENO Breathe offers vocal exercises for people with Long Covid.

Image: English National Opera / YouTube


“In for four, out for four…” – breathing techniques practiced by opera singers are used to help people with Long Covid recover from shortness of breath and anxiety.

Singers from the English National Opera teach breathing techniques to people with “Long Covid”, who suffer from shortness of breath and anxiety long after their initial infection.

In a wonderful marriage of musical and medical expertise, the newly nationalized program offers patients group sessions with professional vocal specialists, as well as breathing and wellness exercises online.

After participating in a six-week pilot project of ENO breathe, a partnership between the London-based opera company and the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, patients have reported marked improvement in symptoms and well-being.

“I had never had such an experience before,” said participant Ludmila. “I didn’t think things like singing could help me with my breathing and improve my recovery from COVID and it really helped me emotionally and physically.”

Today, ENO Breathe is deployed to 1,000 patients in England, with the aim of addressing the growing need for support for people with symptoms of Long Covid.

Arts Council England representative Tonya Nelson said the partnership “exemplifies what is possible when creative organizations partner with healthcare facilities.”

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On the program, singers teach patients to breathe deeply. They use vocal techniques commonly used by opera artists such as diaphragmatic breathing and simple singing exercises, using lullabies as a musical starting point.

Singing lullabies is a calming activity, the coaches say, and the songs cross cultural boundaries for the diverse group of patients involved in the pilot study – 25 percent of whom had English as a second language.

After the pilot, patients said they felt more comfortable singing and their general well-being improved.

While the training is specific, it is also a powerful way to connect people with Long Covid and bring comfort and relief through musical creation.

Deborah, one of the pilot participants, said after the show: “Even though some of us aren’t singers, it doesn’t really matter. It just feels like you want to be in this gang, you want to join us.

After the sessions, participants are equipped with exercises to practice these techniques at their own pace, with online resources specially designed to support their progress.

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At the end of the pilot program, participants reported marked improvements in symptoms and well-being. 90 percent reported a positive improvement in their shortness of breath, 91 percent felt their anxiety level had decreased and overall fatigue levels had improved.

Before the program, the group’s mean generalized anxiety disorder assessment score was 6.7. By the end of six weeks, that number had fallen to 3.2.

Dr Sarah Elkin, consultant at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Continued shortness of breath is debilitating and can be frightening. We hope this program will help people improve and reduce their symptoms. “

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Health and Social Affairs Secretary Matt Hancock supports the program, which helps people with symptoms eight to 12 weeks after their initial diagnosis. “I am very grateful for the work of ENO and the Imperial College Healthcare Trust to help those suffering from the impact of this terrible virus,” he said.

Throughout the pandemic, which has closed opera houses and canceled performances, ENO has been incredibly creative in finding ways to help. Last year they made scrubs and masks to protect NHS workers, during a time of PPE shortages.

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