Singing for Lung Health in Cornwall

On Friday 14th June, as part of Creativity and Well-being Week, Cornwall based Charity Cymaz Music held a celebration and sharing event for their singing for lung health group, Anella.

Anella, which is the Cornish word for ‘breathe’ was started when Emily Foulkes, Cymaz Music Director and Singing for Health Practitioner received training, mentoring and funding from the British Lung Foundation. With the help of small grants over the past three years, the charity has managed to sustain the Singing for Lung Health sessions, supporting patients living with breathlessness as a result of a respiratory condition.

For Creativity and Well-being week, the group wanted to showcase their achievements and share their stories. They were joined by representatives of St Austell Healthcare, BBC Radio Cornwall and Volunteer Cornwall as well as Cymaz Music Trustees. Participants shared their stories and demonstrated some of the exercises used and performed a few songs.

Respiratory conditions will affect one in five people, at some point during their lives and Lung Disease is currently the 3rdleading cause of death in the UK.

One of the most useful and beneficial interventions for people with respiratory conditions is a 9 or 10 week course offered by the NHS called Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Unfortunately there is currently only one Pulmonary Rehabilitation course on offer in the whole of Cornwall. Many respiratory patients are not referred to any other kind of support in their communities.

Anella combines recognised breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and a specialised approach to singing which can improve symptoms and well-being and reduce the need for medication. In this group, which is mainly comprised of patients from the St Austell area, 3 patients have completely stopped using one of their daily inhalers. Participant Mo says, ‘As a result my health and breathing has been amazing. I used to struggle very much with hills, using Salamol (inhaler) every moment. But now I don’t use my inhaler at all’.Patients are guided through breath and voice exercises, with a holistic and body focussed approach. Songs are carefully selected to ensure phrasing is achievable for people with breathlessness. One their favourites is ‘Walk the Line’ by Johnny Cash.

The sessions are supported by Jane Staffieri, Vocal Leader, Accompanist and Sound Therapist trained by The Sound Healing Academy. She explains how using therapeutic instruments are an important part of the Anella sessions.

‘The use of Sound as a healing modality has been used for thousands of years across cultures and continents. The best known and most widely employed use of sound in conventional medicine is in the use of Ultrasound which has been shown to cause increases in tissue relaxation and local blood flow.  During the Anella sessions therapeutic sounds and frequencies are created to induce the relaxation response in patients. As a result of this we see a physical change in the group members, their faces relax, their breathing becomes deeper and they tell us their tension melts away. This alongside a guided Mindfulness meditation helps to prepare them for singing.’ Participant Linda says ‘We almost fall asleep, it’s so relaxing. It’s nice to have a chance to stop and relax.’

It is this unique blend of both relaxing and uplifting activities which Emily believes is part of the recipe for success. There is also a balance of experiential activities and some education and learning. The aim is to encourage patients to feel more in control of their breath and better
able to manage their condition for themselves.

‘I felt so much better after last week and have been doing the exercises at home. I feel more energised.’ (Linda).

Participants are asked to rate the feelings of well-being and breathlessness before and after each session. In almost all cases there is an improvement in both by the end of the session.
The group provides a safe and welcoming environment where patients can share their experiences and know that others will understand. Coming to the sessions is a highlight of the week for many, and helps tackle social isolation.

‘From the first session I was pleased to find the group very welcoming and friendly. This was important to me as I was somewhat concerned that having not been part of a group for many years that I might not fit. No need at all to have been concerned. My breathing has certainly improved since I was diagnosed with COPD. Of course, some of this improvement is due to medication but I am sure that the exercises leant at this group have definitely led to the improvement. Breathing techniques most definitely bring relief to ‘difficult situations’.’ (John)

 

Anella also supports positive mental health. For many suffering with breathlessness there comes high levels of anxiety and depression, often affecting sleep and every day activities.

‘Since coming to these sessions, just over a year ago, my breathing has improved a great deal. I no longer need to use my inhaler (Ventolin). The sessions have also had a positive effect on my general well-being and mental health. I suffer from severe anxiety at times but coming here and having the support and friendship of all the group has helped me to deal with this. There is a great atmosphere between us all and if anyone is having a bad day we all help each other. Emily and Jane have been amazing – their enthusiasm and professional approach has been so encouraging. They have kept us in tune and enthusiastic. Emily and Jane have provided us all with such useful tools to help us improve our quality of health.’ (Anne).

Anella currently runs weekly sessions during term time in Lostwithiel. Many patients are referred from St Austell Healthcare as part of their Social Prescribing Initiative. Emily is keen to expand the opportunity for others living with breathlessness to access similar provision. This group is currently funded to the end of the year, thanks to Tesco Bags of Help. We will be looking for funding to sustain beyond that and look to setting groups up in other areas.

Cymaz Music is a music charity based in Cornwall which believes that music can support education and learning and promote health and well-being. They are growing a programme of Singing for Health, working locally and nationally. Their current areas of focus are Mental Health (for all ages), Chronic Pain and Respiratory conditions. The charity is working with the NHS and other Arts & Health organisations, such as Arts Well CiC, to develop a strategic and sustainable programme built on evidence and research.

 

For more information please contact Emily Foulkes on emily@cymazmusic.org.uk www.cymazmusic.org.uk

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