Breathing techniques to improve health and wellbeing - Breathe

Breathing techniques to improve health and wellbeing

Fri 17 Jun 2022

Lilli Murdoch, Communications Officer, spoke to Ed Jeffery, Breathe Artist and Singing for Health Musician about his perspective on Men’s Health, and whether masculine ideals have affected how he looks after his physical and mental health.

Ed told me that it’s only been in the last five years that he has begun to look after himself properly. Working with music and health has helped him engage with his body and understand his body’s needs. He told me it is interesting to talk about masculinity, as he went to a Catholic all-boys school, where he felt that every single masculine stereotype you could think of was drummed into him. If someone was sick or feeling low, or was having a bad day, they were faced with a ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude and told to ‘man up’, ‘drive through the pain’ and ‘get over it’.

“I still don’t look after myself as well as I should, but I’m actually trying now.”

In more recent years I started talking more, and I opened up to my family, friends, and my wife. I told them how I was feeling, that I was experiencing heart palpitations, fatigue and constantly feeling low. They told me to get checked out and ask myself what I thought was causing this. This made me think about my sleep, my work and what I ate.
Edmund Jeffery, Breathe Artist & Singing for Health Musician

When Ed first started singing for breathing, he thought it was just common sense that the singing technique could help anyone to control their breath and help to make breathing more efficient. But, through teaching the programme he has found a much deeper connection with the importance of breath and whole-body awareness.

“I started working on the Breathe Sing programme and realised the slow pace in which I had to move in the sessions was a relief and offered me respite. I was living in this slow pace throughout the sessions, but in overdrive in every other part of my life. It was almost therapy for me to have that time to slow down. Just slowing down and thinking about my breathing made me become more in touch with my body, so much more than just a common-sense physical benefit. Simply slowing my breath has really improved my day-to-day life”

Ed has noticed a lack of men in all music groups across the health care setting. He works with singing and dementia and brain injury patients, and has seen more willingness to take part from women. However, when Ed has encouraged men to join, they are usually really committed, enthusiastic and come back each week.  Another observation Ed made is that usually music facilitators are women, and Ed believes that a stronger presence of male leads would attract more male participants.

I think men at times think singing is silly and that they won’t be good at it, or they can’t sing, so why bother? This is a stigma we need to break and try and get beyond. Men need to think about what they are striving for in their singing class. Do they want to be the next Luciano Pavarotti or Stevie Wonder, or do they just want to feel better? This is the concept that guys sometimes don’t understand. But once they feel the rush of endorphins after, they become addicted, it’s just getting them to that point.
Edmund Jeffery, Breathe Artist & Singing for Health Musician

“Most people can sing. If you can make a sound, then you can sing; it’s so primal and a great way to express your emotions. Think about it, when you feel an emotion, you normally make a sound, whether you’re crying, laughing or whingeing, they are all different sounds we make. Singing is that with a bit of control. After all, you have an instrument inside your body; you can’t get more in touch with your body than that.”

Ed told me how just by slowing down your breath you can release tension in your body, lower your heart rate, which will make you feel more relaxed, become more in touch with your body and finally get that lovely adrenaline feeling.

Ed never used to focus on his health or use singing for wellbeing, he was only driven by business and completing business goals. He didn’t take his mental health seriously or even think it was a ‘thing’. This was true until he found singing for health.

Open up to your friends and family: if something doesn’t feel right, don’t hide it, or ride the wave, as the wave keeps getting bigger and will crash. I used to feel like that often, and now if I feel like the wave is getting bigger, I know I must address it and talk to people
Edmund Jeffery, Breathe Artist & Singing for Health Musician

We finish the conversation and Ed tells me that “this has been uncomfortable.’ Well, I don’t blame him, speaking to someone he’s never met and talking about his emotions! But even though he felt uncomfortable he wanted to share his thoughts and experiences as he believes it is so important to open up and help others to do the same.