Breathing is a necessity in life

“Do you know that a great many of us do not actually breathe properly? It is one of the most important elements of life, otherwise, without the breath, we cannot live.
Breathing may be an automatic function and a vital one, why then do we spend so much of our time shallow breathing? When we breathe in an unmindful way, we often fail to fill our lungs fully as we only using the upper part, but like anything, our lungs must be worked. Shallow breathing limits the range of motion of the diaphragm, and this can make you feel anxious and, as if you do not have sufficient breath.


We need oxygen for every single cell in the body. Inhalation and exhalation impact the heart and lungs but also, is essential for energy production. Your body’s tissues and organs are made up of cells, and they must receive the right nutrients and oxygen to function correctly.”

“How often do we pay attention to how we breathe? We don’t really, until we succumb to colds or chest infections. There’s little attention paid to our respiratory system. It’s only when you struggle to breathe that you realize just how important it is. If you consider that your nose, windpipe, lungs, circulatory system and the muscles all provide the vital role of transporting those all-important breaths that you take, each part of the body’s systems are inter-linked, but without breath, the body fails to exist.


Dr. Herbert Benson wrote about controlled breathing in his book The Relaxation Response which discussed the oxygen exchange i.e. oxygen being inhaled while carbon dioxide is released. He stated that by controlling breathing, it centers the parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts the body’s fight or flight response. So, this means that by focusing on the breath, it’s possible to de-stress and to manage any anxieties (and anxiousness equates to shallow, rapid breaths). But it also increased brain growth and lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Research endorses this argument and so, yes, focus, breathe correctly, and be healthy.”

“Our breathing is either:
Thoracic or diaphragmatic
Interrupted or continuous
Irregular or rhythmical


Paying attention to how you breathe is important, but it’s also relevant to consider that your breathing is affected by your emotional or physical well-being. Think back to a time when you were angry, fearful or sad, these emotions would have affected your breathing. As you try to recall the memory, tune into the physicality’s of the moment. What was your breathing like? It’s important for you to determine if you have emotional triggers which will interrupt the natural process of breathing. Awareness is key because you can then re-train automatic responses, breathing correctly while improving your health.”

“Have a go at monitoring your breathing for a while and notice if you are guilty of shallow breathing all the time. It’s easy to correct so don’t worry if you do this. It’s very easy to fit some techniques into your daily life and, if you feel anxious at any point or fearful, know that when you focus on your breathing, you can reduce this feeling. The breath has such a calming effect. When I’ve been fraught with tension and have been worrying like mad about things, I found that by taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on the inhalation and exhalation, it really works. If you tune into the breath and focus, you can’t worry about anything else.
There are so many symptoms associated with anxiety and these include:


Feeling faint
Racing heartbeat
Feeling lightheaded
Chest pains”

“We’ve already discussed the connection between the mind and the body and so, it won’t surprise you to know that if you start feeling anxious, it’s possible to experience severe physical reactions. It’s true to say that some people are even hospitalized because they feel they might be having a heart attack. Many symptoms occur through shallow breathing. In fact, anxiety and shallow breathing go hand in hand. This is because the individual takes in only small breaths during any anxiety attack instead of breathing all the way to the bottom of their lungs. Shallow breathing may not be dangerous as such, but you can bet that it’s not good for you.


With shallow breathing, there’s often a need to take deeper breaths, simply because you are not getting in sufficient oxygen levels.
Have you ever noticed that people start yawning to compensate on a subconscious level? It is the easy way to obtain sufficient oxygen and promote healing from within. Take 3 or 4 deep breaths and then go back to breathing normally, just do this more often that’s all.

“Feelings of anxiety promote the activation of our body’s fight or flight system. By its design, it is meant to keep you from safe from any danger. So, if you are faced with a dangerous situation, your heartbeat naturally speeds up, and you start to breathe faster, so to get more oxygen in your system ready for either fighting or fleeing from the situation. This, of course, makes sense.

But anyone who suffers from anxiety is probably not facing any actual danger but the body still reacts exactly as if they are.
Of course, we all suffer from moments of anxiousness from time to time. Our errant thoughts can run astray and make us hypersensitive as to all the numerous things that could go wrong in life, and don’t we always think the worst? Left unchecked, this can develop into some sort of anxiety disorder, and you don’t want that.”

“When this happens, your body consistently starts to release adrenaline, behaving as if you are in a terrifying and life-threatening situation. The chances are you are not in a life-threatening situation, but your stress response activates anyway. You will breathe more rapidly but shallowly. In a panic attack, the individual can end up hyperventilating. Let’s dismiss one myth here when you breathe shallowly, it does not mean that you need to increase your oxygen levels. Actually, it is the opposite. It means that you are over-breathing, shallow rapid breaths and exhaling carbon dioxide far too quickly before your body can make more.
Let’s consider the importance of breathing correctly. Inhale, and oxygen levels increase. But carbon dioxide actually takes time to develop and so, when the breath is shallow, you emit more CO2 than your body creates. It is this that will eventually lead to hyperventilation.

Now, as you hyperventilate, your body feels as if it is not getting sufficient levels of oxygen. Therefore, you start to take even more quick breaths in as you’ll feel panicky and of course, this makes it worse.
Hyperventilation will lead to other side-effects including:


Feeling weak
Tingling sensation Feeling feint
Increased heartbeat
Chest pains
Dizziness
Aches and pains
Reduced mental clarity.


Surprisingly, shallow breathing is one of the most important things to control, and if you can understand how shallow breathing is connected to anxiety, it makes it so much easier to deal with it.


Slow breathing
You may not want to slow your breathing down during an anxiety attack, but it is important to fight the urge to take deep, fast breaths but instead, just to slow down the breathing cycle. To do so, focus on your breathing and make each breath deliberate. Counting can help, and you should inhale for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds and then, slowly breathe out for an extended period, for 6 to 7 seconds.”

The Goddess Bibles

A Memoir By Laura Zukerman

Dissociative Disorders

Dementia

Dementia comprises several forms — the most common being Alzheimer’s disease — is an illness which results in a deterioration of cognitive capacity and function beyond what is expect from the normal ageing process. It can occur either in a chronic or progressive form. It affects several cognitive functions including memory, comprehension, judgement, language and learning capacity.

In the map we see death rates from dementia across the world. Note that these rates have been age-standardized which aims to correct for differences in the age structure of a population (which are different between countries and change over time). This therefore allows us to compare the likelihood that any given individual will die from dementia across countries and through time.

Across most countries, the death rate from dementia-related illness is below 55 per 100,000 individuals. Dementia rates in some countries have changed slightly since 1990, but significantly less so than other disease burdens.Death rate from Alzheimer & other dementia, 2017

The annual number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia per 100,000 people.
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Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Additional information

Diarrheal diseases

Diarrheal diseases are caused primarily by viral and bacterial pathogens. They are particularly dominant at lower incomes where there is poor access to safe sanitationdrinking water and hygiene facilities. Diarrheal diseases are a leading cause of death in children.

In the map we see death rates from diarrheal diseases across the world.Diarrheal diseasesYou can explore global, regional and country-level data on diarrheal diseases in our full article here.Death rate from diarrheal diseases, 2017

The annual number of deaths from diarrheal diseases per 100,000 people.
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Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an illness caused by the ingestion of bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) which affects the lungs. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that up to one-quarter of the global population has latent TB, meaning they have been infected with the disease but are not ill with the disease (although this does not inhibit it from becoming active in the future).

People with compromised immune systems, such as those suffering from malnutrition, diabetes, or are smokers are more likely to become ill with TB. There is a strong link between HIV/AIDS and TB: those infected with HIV are 20-30 times more likely to develop active tuberculosis.

In the map we see death rates from tuberculosis across the world.

Across most countries, the death rate from TB is below 5 per 100,000. Rates in 2017 across Eastern Europe were slightly higher, between 5-10 per 100,000. Across South Asia, these reach 25-50 per 100,000, with highest rates across Sub-Saharan Africa ranging from 50 to over 250 per 100,000.Death rate from tuberculosis, 2017

The annual number of deaths from tuberculosis per 100,000 people.
No data0510255075100125150200>250CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (2017)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Additional information

Malnutrition

Malnutrition arises in various forms, with the broad definition capturing undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. In this case, we refer to ‘protein-energy malnutrition‘ (PEM) which refers to energy or protein deficiency caused by insufficient food intake. Protein-energy deficiency can also be exacerbated by infection or disease, which can have the effect of increasing nutritional needs, and/or reducing the body’s ability to retain energy or nutrients. You can find more information on hunger and undernourishment in our entry.

In the map we see death rates from protein-energy malnutrition across the world.

The highest rates are seen across across Sub-Saharan Africa, which are typically in the range of 10-100 per 100,000 individuals. For most countries, this rate is below 5 per 100,000. In North Korea during its famine period, rates reached over 400 per 100,000.Death rate from malnutrition, 2017

Deaths from protein-energy malnutrition per 100,000 people.
No data05102550100150200300400>450CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Additional information

HIV/AIDS

An infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). AIDS results in a gradual and persistent decline and failure of the immune system, resulting in heightened risk of life-threatening infection and cancers.

In the majority of cases, HIV is a sexually-transmitted infection. However, HIV can also be transmitted from a mother to her child, during pregnancy or childbirth, or through breastfeeding. Non-sexual transmission can also occur through the sharing of injection equipment such as needles.

In the map we see death rates from HIV/AIDS across the world.

Most countries have a rate of less than 10 deaths per 100,000 – often much lower, below 5 per 100,000. Across Europe the death rate is less than one per 100,000.

Across Sub-Saharan Africa the rates are much higher. Most countries in the South of the region had rates greater than 100 per 100,000. In South Africa and Mozambique, it was over 200 per 100,000.HIV/AIDSYou can explore global, regional and country-level data on HIV prevalence, deaths, and treatment in our full article here.Death rate from HIV/AIDS, 2017

The annual number of deaths from HIV/AIDS per 100,000 people.
No data0102550100200>250CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Malaria

Malaria is a disease that is transmitted from person to person by infected mosquitoes. The bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito transmits a parasite that enters the victim’s blood system and travels into the person’s liver where the parasite reproduces. There the parasite causes a high fever that involves shaking chills and pain. In the worst cases malaria leads to coma and death.

In the map we see death rates from malaria across the world.MalariaYou can explore global, regional and country-level data on malaria prevalence, deaths, and treatments in our full article here.Death rate from malaria, 2017

The annual number of deaths from malaria per 100,000 people.
No data02.551020406080>100CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is not a direct cause of death, but it nonetheless one of the world’s largest health problems.

Smoking is one of the world’s leading risk factors for premature death. Tobacco a risk factor for several of the world’s leading causes of death, including lung and other forms of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. 

In the map we see death rates from tobacco smoking across the world.SmokingYou can explore global, regional and country-level data on the prevalence of smoking, its health impacts and attributed deaths in our full article here.Death rate from smoking, 2017

The annual number of deaths attributed to smoking per 100,000 people.
No data0255075100150>200CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Suicide

Every suicide is a tragedy. With timely, evidence-based interventions, suicides can be prevented.6

In the map we see death rates from suicide across the world.SuicideYou can explore global, regional and country-level data on deaths from suicide in our full article here.Death rate from suicides, 2017

The annual number of deaths from suicide per 100,000 people.
No data051015204050100CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Homicides

Intentional homicides are defined as “an unlawful death deliberately inflicted on one person by another person”.7Civilian and military deaths during interstate warscivil wars and genocides are not counted as homicides – but Our World in Data presents the evidence on deaths in the linked articles.

In the map we see homicide rates across the world.HomicidesYou can explore global, regional and country-level data on homicides in our full article here.Homicide rate, 2016

Number of intentional homicide deaths per 100,000 people.
No data012510203050100150CC BY

Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s International Homicide Statistics

Note: Intentional homicides are estimates of unlawful homicides purposely inflicted as a result of domestic disputes, interpersonal violence, violent
conflicts over land resources, intergang violence over turf or control, and predatory violence and killing by armed groups.
19952016

Natural disasters

Natural disasters can occur in many forms – ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis, to extreme weather events, and heatwaves.

The largest disaster events are often infrequent, but high-impact meaning there is significant variability in deaths from year-to-year.

In the the map we see death rates from natural disasters across the world.Natural disastersYou can explore data on the number, costs and deaths from natural disasters in our full article here.Death rate from natural disasters, 2017

The annual number of deaths from all forms of natural disaster per 100,000 people.
No data00.010.050.10.515101001,0002,300CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Road incidents

Road incident deaths include those of drivers – motor vehicles and motorcyclists – in addition to cyclists and pedestrian deaths.

In the map we see death rates from road incidents across the world.

Death rates are typically lowest across Western Europe and Japan, with less than 5 deaths per 100,000 individuals. Across the Americas, rates are typically slightly higher at 5 to 20; most countries in Asia lie between 15 and 30; and rates are typically highest across Sub-Saharan Africa with over 25 per 100,000.Death rate from road accidents, 2017

The annual number of deaths from road accidents per 100,000 people.
Deaths include those from drivers and passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.
No data051015202530405060>70CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Additional information

Drowning

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasises that drowning is one of the most overlooked, preventable causes of death across the world.8 For every country in the world, drowning is among the top 10 killers for children. In some countries, such as Bangladesh, it is the top mortality cause for children under 15 years old.

In the map we see death rates from drowning across the world.

In 2016, death rates were highest in Papua New Guinea and Seychelles, between 10 to 16 deaths per 100,000. Rates were also high in countries such as Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Vietnam, and Haiti.

If we look at death rates we see a significant decline since 1990 — especially in low to middle-income countries. In Bangladesh and China, for example, rates have fallen by more than two-thirds over this period.Death rate from drowning, 2017

The annual number of deaths from drowning per 100,000 people.
No data012.557.5101520253035CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Additional information

Fire

In the map we see death rates from fire across the world.

Most countries across the Americas, Western Europe, East Asia and Oceania average death rates below 2 per 100,000. Rates across other regions are typically higher at 2-6 per 100,000. When viewed through time we see a notable decline in fire death rates, particularly across Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe. Death rate from fires and burns, 2017

The annual number of deaths due to fire, heat and hot substances per 100,000 people.
No data012468101214CC BY

Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Note: To allow comparisons between countries and over time this metric is age-standardized.
19902017

Additional information

Terrorism

Terrorism is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” We quickly see that this definition is unspecific and subjective.9 In our full article on Terrorism we look at adopted definitions, and how it’s distinguished from other forms of violence.

In the map we see death rates from terrorism across the world.TerrorismYou can explore data on the number of terrorist attacks and deaths in our full article here.Deaths from terrorism, 2017

Confirmed deaths, including all victims and attackers who died as a result of the incident.
No data02550751002505001,0005,00010,00015,000CC BY

Source: Global Terrorism Database (2018)

Note: The Global Terrorism Database is the most comprehensive dataset on terrorist attacks available and recent data is complete. However, we
expect, based on our analysis, that longer-term data is incomplete (with the exception of the US and Europe). We therefore do not recommend this
dataset for the inference of long-term trends in the prevalence of terrorism globally. 
19702017

Deaths by animal

Mosquitoes are by far the world’s deadliest animal

Around 1.5 million people are killed by animals every year.

More than half a million are killed by other humans – in warhomicides, and terrorism. And close to a million people are killed by other animals in any given year.10 

Mosquitoes are, by far, the world’s deadliest animal for humans: at estimated 780,000 died from the transmission of disease from mosquitoes in 2016. Mosquito deaths are the sum of deaths (in order, highest to lowest) from: Malaria, Dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Yellow fever, Zika virus, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, and Lymphatic filariasis, for which it is the vector.

Deadliest animals 01
Estimated number of global human deaths by animal, either from direct contact/attack or transmission of disease.

Does the news reflect what we die from?

One of the primary motivations for our work at Our World in Data is to provide a fact-based overview of the world we live in — a perspective that includes the persistent and long-term changes that run as a backdrop to our daily lives. We aim to provide the complement to the fast-paced reporting we see in the news. The media provides a near-instantaneous snapshot of single events; events that are, in most cases, negative. The persistent, large-scale trends of progress never make the headlines.

But is there evidence that such a disconnect exists between what we see in the news and what is reality for most us?

One study attempted to look at this from the perspective of what we die from: is what we actually die from reflected in the media coverage these topics receive?11

To answer this, Shen and his team compared four key sources of data:

For each source the authors calculated the relative share of deaths, share of Google searches, and share of media coverage. They restricted the considered causes to the top 10 causes of death in the US and additionally included terrorism, homicide, and drug overdoses. This allows for us to compare the relative representation across different sources.12

What we die from; what we Google; what we read in the news

So, what do the results look like? In the chart below I present the comparison.

The first column represents each cause’s share of US deaths; the second the share of Google searches each receives; third, the relative article mentions in the New York Times; and finally article mentions in The Guardian.

The coverage in both newspapers here is strikingly similar. And the discrepancy between what we die actually from and what we get informed of in the media is what stands out:

  • around one-third of the considered causes of deaths resulted from heart disease, yet this cause of death receives only 2-3 percent of Google searches and media coverage;
  • just under one-third of the deaths came from cancer; we actually google cancer a lot (37 percent of searches) and it is a popular entry here on our site; but it receives only 13-14 percent of media coverage;
  • we searched for road incidents more frequently than their share of deaths, however, they receive much less attention in the news;
  • when it comes to deaths from strokes, Google searches and media coverage are surprisingly balanced;
  • the largest discrepancies concern violent forms of death: suicide, homicide and terrorism. All three receive much more relative attention in Google searches and media coverage than their relative share of deaths. When it comes to the media coverage on causes of death, violent deaths account for more than two-thirds of coverage in the New York Times and The Guardian but account for less than 3 percent of the total deaths in the US.

What’s interesting is that Americans search on Google is a much closer reflection of what kills us than what is presented in the media. One way to think about it is that media outlets may produce content that they think readers are most interested in, but this is not necessarily reflected in our preferences when we look for information ourselves.

[Clicking on the visualization will open it in higher resolution; The chart shows the summary for the year 2016, but interactive charts for all available years is available at the end of this blog.13]

Causes of death in usa vs. media coverage

How over- or underrepresented are deaths in the media?

As we can see clearly from the chart above, there is a disconnect between what we die from, and how much coverage these causes get in the media. Another way to summarize this discrepancy is to calculate how over- or underrepresented each cause is in the media. To do this, we simply calculate the ratio between the share of deaths and share of media coverage for each cause.

In the chart below we see how over- or underrepresented each cause is in newspaper coverage.14 Causes shown in red are overrepresented in the media; those in blue are underrepresented. Numbers denote the factor by which they are misrepresented.

The major standout here – I had to break the scale on the y-axis since it’s several orders of magnitude higher than everything else – is terrorism: it is overrepresented in the news by almost a factor of 4000.

Homicides are also very overrepresented in the news, by a factor of 31. The most underrepresented in the media are kidney disease (11-fold), heart disease (10-fold), and, perhaps surprisingly, drug overdoses (7-fold). Stroke and diabetes are the two causes most accurately represented.

[Clicking on the visualization will open it in higher resolution].

Over and underrepresentation of deaths in media

Should media exposure reflect what we die from?

From the comparisons above, it’s clear that the news doesn’t reflect what we die from. But there is another important question: should these be representative?

There are several reasons we would, or should, expect that what we read online, and what is covered in the media wouldn’t correspond with what we actually die from.

The first is that we would expect there to be some preventative aspect to information we access. There’s a strong argument that things we search for and gain information on encourages us to take action which prevents a further death. There are several examples where I can imagine this to be true. People who are concerned about cancer may search online for guidance on symptoms and be convinced to see their doctor. Some people with suicidal thoughts may seek help and support online which later results in an averted death from suicide. We’d therefore expect that both intended or unintended exposure to information on particular topics could prevent deaths from a given cause. Some imbalance in the relative proportions therefore makes sense. But clearly there is some bias in our concerns: most people die from heart disease (hence it should be something that concerns us) yet only a small minority seek [possibly preventative] information online.

Second, this study focused on what people in the USA die from, not what people across the world die from. Is media coverage more representative of global deaths? Not really. In another blog post, ‘What does the world die from?‘, I looked in detail at the ranking of causes of death globally and by country. The relative ranking of deaths in the USA is reflective of the global average: most people die from heart disease and cancers, and terrorism ranks last or second last (alongside natural disasters). Terrorism accounted for 0.06 percent of global deaths in 2016. Whilst we’d expect non-US events to feature in the New York Times, global news shouldn’t substantially affect representative coverage of causes.

The third relates to the very nature of news: it focuses on events and stories. Whilst I am often critical of the messages and narratives portrayed in the media, I have some sympathy for what they choose to cover. Reporting has become increasingly fast-paced. As news consumers, our expectations have quickly shifted from daily, to hourly, down to minute-by-minute updates of what’s happening in the world. Combine this with our attraction to stories and narratives. It’s not surprising that the media focuses on reports of single (inadvertently negative) events: a murder case or a terrorist attack. The most underrepresented cause of death in the media was kidney disease. But with an audience that expects a minute-by-minute feed of coverage, how much can possibly be said about kidney disease? Without conquering our compulsion for the latest unusual story, we cannot expect this representation to be perfectly balanced.

How to combat our bias for single events

Media and its consumers are stuck in a reinforcing cycle. The news reports on breaking events, which are often based around a compelling story. Consumers want to know what’s going on in the world — we are quickly immersed by the latest headline. We come to expect news updates with increasing frequency, and media channels have clear incentives to deliver. This locks us into a cycle of expectation and coverage with a strong bias for outlier events. Most of us are left with a skewed perception of the world; we think the world is much worse than it is.15

The responsibility in breaking this cycle lies with both media producers and consumers. Will we ever stop reporting and reading the latest news? Unlikely. But we can all be more conscious of how we let this news shape our understanding of the world.

And journalists can do much better in providing context of the broader trends: if reporting on a homicide, for example, include context of how homicide rates are changing over time.16

As media consumers we can be much more aware of the fact that relying on the 24/7 news coverage alone is wholly insufficient for understanding the state of the world. This requires us to check our (often unconscious) bias for single narratives and seek out sources that provide a fact-based perspective on the world.

This antidote to the news is what we try to provide at Our World in Data. It should be accessible for everyone, which is why our work is completely open-access. Whether you are a media producer or consumer, feel free to take and use anything you find here.

Laura Zukerman

Owner and Founder at the Goddess Bibles A Memoir By Laura Zukerman

Becoming Your Inner Goddess

Goddess on Fire