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King’s charity offers bagpipe lessons in bid to improve lung conditions

It is hoped Piping For Health will help people with moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease regulate breathing and improve lung capacity.

Laura Elston
Thursday 12 October 2023 15:07 BST
Piping For Health will involve sessions at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire (Iain Brown/Prince’s Foundation/PA)
Piping For Health will involve sessions at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire (Iain Brown/Prince’s Foundation/PA)

The King’s charity has launched a health initiative promoting playing the bagpipes to improve certain lung conditions and breathing difficulties.

The Prince’s Foundation pilot programme, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, will offer participants the chance to learn the Scottish national instrument after some bagpipers reported it was beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

It is said to help regulate breathing, increase lung capacity and lower blood pressure, the Foundation said.

The holistic programme, Piping For Health, was developed with the help of the King’s doctor, Michael Dixon, head of the Royal Medical Household, in partnership with the National Piping Centre – which promotes the music and history of the Highland Bagpipe.

The King is both patron of the National Piping Centre and a firm supporter of complementary therapies, and the sessions will also offer breathing techniques, chair yoga, hand reflexology, qi gong – a traditional Chinese healing practice- mindfulness and mindset work.

It will primarily accommodate people with moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.

Referrals are being co-ordinated by East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, and in-person weekly two-hour workshops will launch at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire on November 1.

Fiona McManus, health and wellbeing co-ordinator at The Prince’s Foundation, said: “This new holistic approach is geared to help people live better with COPD.

“With the National Piping Centre and East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, we are delighted to pilot a unique healthcare programme introducing techniques based on bridging bagpiping and holistic therapies.

“The aim is to provide participants with a range of self-management tools to empower them to improve their overall health and wellbeing.”

The late Queen was a fan of the bagpipes and was woken each morning by her personal piper playing.

She was so attuned to the music that she could tell when it was her piper playing or a replacement.

Her piper played a moving lament as the finale to her state funeral in Westminster Abbey.

The King has continued the tradition of having a Sovereign’s Piper, a post currently held by Pipe Major Paul Burns of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The tradition was started by Queen Victoria in 1843, and bagpipes have marked times of both celebration and sorrow for the royal family.

Former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has told how he plays the bagpipes to relieve stress.

He performed a rendition of Three Lions on Good Morning Britain ahead of an England semi-final at Euro 2020.

The Duke of Sussex wrote in his autobiography about the power and emotional memories he associates with the instrument.

Harry described hearing bagpipes playing at Balmoral the morning after he was told of the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, saying: “With bagpipes it’s not the tune, it’s the tone. Thousands of years old, bagpipes are built to amplify what’s already in the heart. If you’re feeling silly, bagpipes make you sillier.

“If you’re angry, bagpipes bring your blood to a higher boil. And if you’re in grief, even if you’re 12 years old and don’t know you’re in grief, maybe especially if you don’t know, bagpipes can drive you mad.”

Piping for Health is the brainchild of Lady Oona Ivory, founder and chairwoman of the National Piping Centre.

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