A project involving the English National Opera and Imperial College London is helping Covid-19 sufferers get their breath back through singing therapy. Find out more about it here!

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been far-reaching and varied. Venues and theatres remain closed, shops have been disappearing from the high street. But scarily, many of those who have suffered with the disease are still feeling the effects months after shifting it. Covid-19 was initially thought of a disease that affected the respiratory system. It is this issue that the project, named ENO Breathe, focusses on.

Singing as Therapy

The idea that singing can be used as a form of therapy is not a new one. Studies have shown that singing in groups such as choirs can promote positivity and confidence, and even assist in coping with stress, depression and anxiety. It is thought that the act of group singing can boost chemicals such as oxytocin and endorphins – feel-good hormones – giving people a stronger sense of wellbeing as well as boosting immune systems. The therapeutic powers of singing don’t stop there either. There have been investigations into the positive affect singing can have on neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and stuttering. In many cases, it has been documented that sufferers stuttered less when singing compared to when they were speaking.

Singing and Covid

The lack of live music has been all too glaring over the past 12 months. Some efforts have been made in attempts to hold covid-safe gigs, but a sing-song in the pub at the weekend still feels a long way off. Singing has been generally discouraged during the pandemic, due to the idea that it spreads germs more easily and over a greater distance. However, singing therapy has now been heralded as an effective way to ease lasting symptoms of Covid-19.

ENO Breathe sees mentors remotely teaching breathing techniques used by opera singers to recovering patients. Participants initially have a one-to-one meeting, and then six weekly online group vocal sessions. The main aim is to improve symptoms of breathlessness and reduce anxiety. Soothing, memorable lullabies are sung in group sessions, due to their calming powers and accessibility. The project is free and aimed at all age groups, ethnicities and singing experience levels, and is open to anyone who has been referred by an NHS specialist. Exercises, led by a vocal specialist, are designed to promote breath control, and self-management of breath and anxiety. Each hour long session includes physical warm-ups to prepare the body and mind, as well as looking at improving posture. Once the six weeks have finished, each participant has access to online resources that help them to continue these exercises themselves.

There have already been lots of success stories and positive reports. Testimonials from participants state that the group setting has had a great impact on their mental wellbeing. Others hail the exercises for making a marked difference in their breath control and lung capacity. Evidently lullabies are not just for small children, and singing is not reserved for opera singers and pop stars!