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margaret’s breathe & connect story

Margaret tells us how important dance is to her health & wellbeing

A group of adults wearing masks dance gently in a light filled room. Some are standing and some are sitting. A Breathe & Connect session with darts in Doncaster

What is Breathe & Connect?
Breathe & Connect is a programme using singing, breathing, relaxation and gentle movement. It is for people who have Long Covid and other long term breathing-related or health issues. darts developed the approach in 2022 during an intense three-month period funded through Doncaster Council and the Additional Restrictions Grant from South Yorkshire Mayoral Authority.

This period of development enabled darts artists and freelance artists to work collaboratively with each other, and with health professionals, to understand the health and social impacts of Long Covid. The artists worked together, and with groups of Doncaster adults, to test and refine their approach, using their experience of delivering years of singing and dance programmes but adapting the model to respond to the specific needs of Long Covid.

Margaret’s story – the beginning
Margaret (not her real name) is 72 years old and living with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease / bronchiectasis). Living with this condition means that Margaret cannot remove mucus from her lungs, and this significantly impacts on her daily activities. Getting out and about is severely impacted as she is unable to walk far or fast due to breathlessness.

Margaret has always been active so, following her GP’s advice, became involved in the Breathe & Connect project as soon as it first started. She had attended sessions at The Point previously so knew a little about what to expect. This meant that she wasn’t too concerned about her condition during the session, as she knew that the artists would be adaptable and respond to her needs, giving her the option to step out and relax for a moment if she needed to.

The sessions that Margaret attended were mainly movement based, using relaxation, breathing, visualisation and very gentle movement and dance to strengthen mobility and improve breathing. Margaret told us that she felt that the sessions had a positive impact, and really helped to improve her condition and symptoms, saying that the movements ease and regulate her breathing and open up her lungs.

I sometimes feel tired or lethargic first thing in the day, and I feel energised when I dance. It gives me a mental boost and uplifts my spirit and my mood as everyone (especially the artists leading) is so positive. You know it’s okay to just dance here and not be pressured. My mood is raised in these sessions, like climbing a mountain of joy - all else just waits outside the door and I pick it up on the way home.

Although the sessions have been helpful and have had a positive impact on Margaret’s health and wellbeing, the artists needed to be mindful of the limitations that COPD as a condition put on her. Challenges included monitoring the more energetic moves, and ensuring that participants knew they had permission to listen to their own bodies and only participate if it felt right to do so. Margaret was very generous in giving feedback throughout this period of developing the approach, and artists lengthened the time spent on relaxation and breathing activity using calming music before participants left the session as a result.

This is the best thing I could ever do for my age group. I would tell anyone ‘there’s no fear in trying it!’…[I’ve] not one negative thing to say about these sessions…They are very morale boosting and we laugh so much - but only with each other…If you can move, you can dance - all you need is the passion!

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