People suffering from long-term Covid symptoms are being taught special breathing exercises used by some of the world’s best opera singers, to help ease their breathlessness and anxiety.
The English National Opera and Imperial College London developed a programme to help the patients, and opera stars will perform songs to show how they benefit from the techniques.
Mentors from ENO Breathe hold online workshops and show how lullabies can soothe symptoms.
“Medicine and the arts have come to understand that they have more in common than they knew,” ENO chairman Harry Brunjes said.
"ENO Breathe … is the unprecedented interface of the art of medicine and the science of the arts.
Those taking part have one-on-one mentor conversations and six-week online group sessions with professional singing specialists.
They are taught the methods opera singers use.
To achieve the physical co-ordination required for singing, opera singers use emotional connections and imagery, rather than giving their bodies explicit physiological instructions.
“The ENO are committed to making a difference to the lives of people and communities recovering from Covid-19, using our unique skills and resources in ways that are relevant and useful, and that matter to people,” said the ENO’s Jenny Mollica.
“Following our successful pilot programme, we are hugely proud to be able to roll out ENO Breathe nationally.”
In a six-week trial project with Imperial College Healthcare, 13 patients with continuing symptoms were shown the ENO techniques.
By the end of the programme, 90 per cent reported reduced levels of breathlessness and 91 per cent felt their levels of anxiety had dropped.
“Breathe has been fantastic. It has really aided me enormously with my breathlessness and also my anxiety a little around reintegrating myself back into society,” participant Richard said.
All of the pilot participants said they would continue using the techniques and 91 per cent felt that taking part had given them increased confidence in managing their symptoms.
All of them said they would “definitely recommend” the programme to others experiencing long-term Covid symptoms.