….So yes, it seems like I’ve really been suffering forever with….
- The eternal asthma purgatory that is the bottom end of the Yellow Zone.
- The constant feeling of air starvation with suffocation thrown in.
- The sleepless nights.
- The inability to get comfortable with anything.
- The incessant tiredness that ensues when the air trapping saps every atom of your strength.
- The boredom of it all, especially not being up to having my swim and some gentle form of exercise.
And then I remember my technique.
I used to be a brilliant oboe player. I say that with complete hand on heart because it’s true. A few months back, my student teacher whacked on a CD and played some of it to me. She half tricked me and asked what I thought. I remember saying the pianist was dire, the composition was mediocre but the oboe player was gorgeous. She then told me the piece was one of her GCSE Music compositions, the pianist was an ex colleague and the oboist….was me! I was so chuffed. Then it all made me cry. I used to be able to play like that now I can’t even blow the thing. Geez, I even cried at my parents when I told them about it.
I wrote this post last February about my oboe playing.
So where is the technique? Answer: in my diaphragm of course. Although I’m sort of half feeling like I’ve just come out of the ring with Mike Tyson, I’ve got a rock solid diaphragm and that’s what I have to thank for getting me out of so many scrapes, breathing wise.
As an ex-oboist, I still practise the technique surrounding the breathing pattern necessary to play the thing well.
Not much air leaves your lungs therefore a whole lot stays in your lungs. This leads to a build up of CO2 which, in poor technique can cause hyperventilation, giddyness and fainting. I can safely say I never once fainted, think I almost did once in a Mahler symphony but I remember it being so very hot in the auditorium! (Seems I was destined for a life of air trapping from the outset of my oboe lessons, doesn’t it!)
This back up of retained air is easily sorted out by learning how to breathe properly. Whereas most wind players get away with breathing IN at the end of a phrase, the oboist has to breath the CO2 OUT then take fresh new air IN. It takes a bit of getting used to but eventually becomes second nature. I was one of those lucky oboists who also learned to Circular Breathe.
Oboe playing is not “dangerous” provided you are well taught and you learn to breathe properly. The oboe is recognised as an excellent instrument for those with asthma (if well taught) because of the breath control technique it requires.
As a player, I could keep going for ages and ages on a single ‘OUT’ breath. I could play the whole of the 1st phrase of the Strauss concerto on the longest single out breath ever-it used to amaze people. And, yes, I had quite severe asthma in my college days. One of the reasons I wanted to learn with my Professor was because I knew he’d understand being a fellow severe asthmatic.
It’s this sole ability to really exhale for a long time that helps me when I am so backed up with air like now, and really suffering for it like I said at the top of this post. When I practise my P.E.P. therapy, I inhale for 4 counts and exhale for as many as 12 counts if I can make it-all the time trying to empty, stretch and splint those clamped off airways open. If I were to really try, and in safe conditions, I would probably only completely exhale my lungs about 4 or 5 times in the space of a minute if I could relax enough. Trouble is, I gasp the air in so much it can be self panicking. Therefore I’ve always got too much CO2 hanging around.
I also practise the Pursed lipped Breathing technique. (I’ll write another post on PLB another time)
So really, ahead of dragging myself, almost in the dark now, to school, I think I’ll close by saying, yes the humungous doses of Steroids help, the Bipap helps, the ABGs help by telling us what is transpiring, the IVs load the drugs in, the intensive monitoring helps, but what really counts for everything in any post recovery phase is
….a good breathing technique…..