Rauch. Pneuma. Prana. Breath. It is the first thing we do when we enter this world and the last thing we do before we leave it, breathe. It is our life force and core to our existence. Now imagine, if you can, your throat constricting, gasping for air, panicking as you struggle to breath. This can be what daily life looks like for someone with Congestive Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Patients with COPD struggle with anxiety, wondering when the next attack will come, and depression, as they slowly let go of all the activities they may have enjoyed when they were well-bodied and able. Music therapy can elicit positive changes for people struggling with COPD.
How? How can music make a difference?
Do you not find yourself listening to music when you want to relax? Do you not turn to music when you’re feeling sad? I do. I use music to help motivate me, to clear my mind after a hard day and to lift my spirits when I’m troubled. When working with people with COPD, we start with the very basics, learning to breathe appropriately. Being a music therapist, with voice as my main instrument, I have a great understanding of the difference good breathing techniques can make, not only in vocal quality but also in daily life. And now I will share my knowledge with you, with the hope that you will share it with someone you care about, making a difference in their life.
First step, watch yourself breath while standing in the mirror. Yes this will seem ridiculous at first but remember you’re trying to improve your health. Do your shoulders move when you breathe? If so, you are using clavicular breathing (breathing from the shoulders) instead of diaphragmatic (breathing from the belly). Put your hands on you rib cage and make sure that you are expanding out, not up! Your diaphragm should move down as your lungs fill with air. Now here’s a video to help illustrate proper breathing technique: Proper Breathing Technique
Remember smell the spaghetti; blow out the candle.
Second, you’re going to want to build your diaphragm strength to help improve exhalation. People with COPD struggle to exhale all the oxygen from their lungs. This exercise will help counteract that problem. Here are two exercises to help attain this goal.
The first, simply breathe in through your nose and hiss the air back out. Build Your Diaphragm
Next, you’ll throw consonant darts on various letters (F, CH, T, K). Throwing Darts
I would suggest completing these exercises when you brush your teeth, in the morning and before you go to bed at night. As with any exercise, the more you do it the stronger you’ll get.
Finally, I want to leave you with a relaxation activity. This may be ideal prior to going out for the day (to help curb any anxiety you may feel) or as part of a bedtime ritual. Pick a favorite song. Something with a slow tempo, preferably without lyrics, that’s at least ten minutes in length. Sit down, close your eyes and listen. Breathe in through your nose. And out through your mouth. Allow your breath to match the tempo of the music. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Be sure to use your diaphragm to get a nice deep breathe.
Below you will find links to two of my favorite classical pieces. Enjoy!
Check out our previous blog post here.
Lindsey Perrault, MT-BC
Lindsey Perrault graduated from Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN with a Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy in 2011. Lindsey works with the elderly, oncology patients, cognitively impaired, and autism spectrum populations. Lindsey has been asked to speak about the efficacy of music therapy at the Great Lakes Regional music therapy conference, the Council on Aging and both the Grand Rapids and Zeeland Better Breathers Groups. In her spare time, she enjoys singing with the Grand Rapids Symphony Choir, Opera Grand Rapids Chorus and the St. Andrew’s Schola Choir. Lindsey teaches classical vocal technique at the Franciscan Life Process Center.