I suffer from asthma. For the last few months, several people around me had been encouraging me to join a choir and start singing. I never learned singing technique or how to play a musical instrument, I do not know how to read music, I did not think I could sing. I did not feel confident to join a choir.

A dear friend sent me a link to an article about singing for breathing sessions at the Royal Brompton. I contacted them and discovered the singing sessions at The Whittington, my local hospital.

I started attending the sessions in May 2013 and feel really glad to have found them. I feel really happy and relaxed after a session – full of positivity and energy. My breathing feels easier. I feel confident that it is not just my breathing but my whole body that benefits when I feel so good.

I feel very grateful that the sessions are led by a fantastic teacher. At the first session, I was amazed to hear her say that I was singing from my throat. And indeed my throat muscles were feeling it. I remember asking her what I was supposed to do and was told to be gentle with myself, that it was only the first session and that I would learn as I went along. Gradually I discovered what she meant.

Over time I am developing better awareness of my body – where I hold tension. I love the gentle stretching and relaxing movements we do at the beginning of the session. I am enjoying doing them on my own too quite regularly. Sometimes I am able to catch my breathing starting to constrict and using some of the techniques we practice in the singing sessions can help prevent the use of the emergency inhaler.

Not knowing the singing technique, I much prefer singing African songs where I can join in whole heartedly and let myself go. I find it easier to use my stomach muscles when I sing these songs and it feels really good.

I love the sessions where we are encouraged to sing loudly or make loud sounds. When I asked the teacher about it I was deeply touched when she said that it could be about giving myself permission to use my voice.  I have a low soft voice. Sometimes I find nobody has heard what I said. One of the things I have loved about the sessions is enhanced awareness of my inhibitions about my voice being heard. I find that singing with the group helps me to work through some of these inhibitions and move forward with my healing process.

One of the things I have realised about my breathing difficulty is that it is deeply connected to fear and anxiety. The more I am able to work with my fears, stop running away from them, allow them to surface from my subconscious into my conscious awareness, the easier I find it is to breathe. I have found the book ‘Fear’ by Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh very helpful. My Reiki practice is invaluable to do the inner work with fear and anxiety. Sometimes I find Homeopathic remedies very helpful when the emergency inhaler does not seem to help much. I practice QiGong and find it very helpful too.

I feel very grateful for the scientific progress and modern medicine that has made the inhalers available – especially in the moments when I am struggling to breathe, and nothing else seems to help. I also know that relying on regular use of inhalers is not good for me because of the side effects that can build up over time.

I am very glad to have all these tools in my life that enable me to help myself. I feel very grateful that NHS is facilitating these singing sessions. When I feel happy and relaxed after singing, I feel that it is helping enhance my wellbeing at all levels. When I feel happy, I know that it will help boost my immune system as well and I would be less likely to fall ill and consume NHS resources. I look forward to the singing session every week and hope that it will continue to be offered.