Choosing Greatness with Asthma
When I was young, I suffered with uncontrolled asthma. It seems I was always sick because asthma and allergies kept me run down and susceptible to every cold and virus that came my way. It took tremendous willpower-some innate force that kept me fighting for better health.
Our family lived in Arizona my first few years where the particulates that seemed to contribute to my problems. We later moved to Lakeport, California. We lived right at the water’s edge and it is a time I remember fondly.
Dad was a great fisherman, returning home each lunch hour to fish from the pier or launch out in a little boat that leaked to catch a quick fish. I often went with him and loved to fish. Many times we caught turtles on our hooks.
So, when my doctors suggested that I swim or take up playing a woodwind instrument to help increase my lung capacity and breath control, I tried swimming in the lake. But the snapping turtles were always on my mind!
Later, when I was about eight, my father gave me a silver flute.We had returned to the desert of Arizona, I’d given up the swimming and joined the school band. At first, I had trouble getting any sound out of the mouthpiece. Then it happened, and I never looked back. The feeling and tone was so inspiring that I spent hours working with the instrument each day!
I can’t say I noticed any real health improvement attributed to the flute, but I thought maybe teenage hormones kicking in had helped.
However, when my asthma returned in my thirties, it was a return to playing the flute that gave me a measurable change in the way asthma had compromised my breathing in the years I was away from playing.
About the Flute and Asthma:
Someone once told me that the flute probably requires the most air output of any wind instrument. I haven’t played others, (other than Irish whistles and oboe) so I can’t say this as fact. The good news is there is a relatively low resistance to the airflow within the flute (unlike the oboe). This makes playing it a good way to practice deep breathing and a relaxed physical state.
I’m not sure that any studies have proven that playing a wind instrument improves the way your lungs work or helps breathing, but many people with asthma feel it helps. A quick note, if you or your child have asthma, please consult your health practitioner before buying your instrument to be sure it won’t be too strenuous.
Many asthmatics experience a “constriction” of air flow as a main symptom. The flute can be a good way to master breath control and improve pulmonary health in a controlled environment while attaining a skill. Besides, you’re playing music, easing your stress, sharing the music, and interacting with the world in so many ways!
About My Experience:
For myself, the breath control I mastered for playing the flute provided a sense of comfort and power over my breathing. At other times, I feel better able to cope with that panicked-feeling that can accompany asthma’s random bouts of difficult breathing.
With all that practice I became a professional flutist with the group, Meadowlark. My playing appears on nine recordings and I’ve had the pleasure of touring and performing live in front of audiences as large as 1200 people! It’s been great for me. I give playing a wind instrument a big vote of confidence as a potential lifelong therapy for asthmatics.
Occasionally, someone will stop me after a performance to comment on my playing and the quality of my tone. “Wow! I can’t believe how long you can hold the notes!” “How do you go so long without taking a breath?” It always astonishes them to learn that I learned to play the flute to help my childhood asthma.
Learning to deal with that weakness produced this strength in me. I consider that a miracle!
Let me know if you are dealing with asthma and would like to talk! Just share your comments below. If you would like to know about my music, visit www.MeadowlarkMusic.com.