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Ancient instrument gives the breath of life

Posted by on 04/12/2018

SOME say it’s the healthiest musical instrument in the world. The harp? The drums? The trumpet?

No, it’s Australia’s didgeridoo.

”It should be taught in schools, in old-age homes, in hospitals and rehab centres,” Melbourne didgeridoo teacher Dean Frenkel says.

An asthmatic who once held the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous vocal note (56.92 seconds), Frenkel says his work teaching didgeridoo and related vocal and speech techniques has helped many people improve their health in ways that are drug- and side-effect-free.

One student with developmental delays transformed his almost unintelligible speech, Frenkel says, while another, who had half a lung removed after cancer, doubled his breath duration through didgeridoo breathing exercises.

Combining sustained resonance in the head with breath regulation is great for asthma and can unblock the nose of a hay-fever sufferer, Frenkel says.

The secret, he says, lies in the respiratory and thoracic muscles it develops. ”This is the world’s healthiest instrument.”

Frenkel, who likens playing the instrument to the meditation breathing achieved by yoga masters, has synthesised the techniques into a program he will teach at the Melbourne Didgeridoo and Cultural Festival in March.

Former professional footballer Colin McKinnon-Dodd says the benefits of learning the didgeridoo after he had surgery for lung cancer were profound.

”I’ve always been relatively fit but [after having part of one lung removed] I couldn’t walk 30 to 40 feet without puffing and being exhausted,” the Yamatji descendent from Western Australia, who now runs the Mia Mia Aboriginal Art Gallery in Templestowe, says. ”Playing the didgeridoo gave me that training regimen, and without it I think I would have been struggling.”

In 2010, the Health Promotion Journal of Australia published the results of two studies in which indigenous asthmatics were given didgeridoo and singing lessons, and found both respiratory function and reported well-being increased. In 2006, the British Medical Journal published the results of a Swiss trial that found regular didgeridoo playing was an effective treatment for patients with sleep apnoea.

Making the benefits more widely available has the potential to be controversial. Under Aboriginal law, the instrument can only be played by men.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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