Anulom Vilom/Alternate Nostril Breathing/Nadi Shodhana

This exercise purifies the nadis (energy channels in the astral body) of all impurities. Once one’s nadis are purified, the kundalini energy can freely flow through the sushumna (spinal column). It balances the chakras, and calms the mind. It oxygenates the blood, and effectively brings oxygen to the deep tissues and organs thereby effectively removing toxins that cause disease and pain.

“The mind and breath are interconnected. A steady breath means a calm mind and a calm mind helps steady the breath. Therefore one must learn control over the breath. When impurities are present in the nadis (energy channels in the astral body), it is impossible for the breath to flow through the sushumna (the most important nadi in the astral body, which corresponds to the spinal canal in the physical body). Therefore it is important that one practicing pranayam, should do so in a sattvic (pure, virtuous) state of mind. Pranayam done correctly will cure a person of diseases, whereas done incorrectly it could cause diseases. The disorders of pawan (air element/breath) cause hiccups, asthma, cough, headaches, earaches, pain in eyes etc. Hence one should pay careful attention when inhaling and exhaling. The body of a person whose nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.” ~ Hatha Yoga Pradipika

1. Sit in lotus pose, or easy pose (criss cross) or on a chair

2. Keep your spine straight and your chin clightly tucked in towards your chest

3. Rest you left hand on your left knee, palm facing up, in gyan mudra (index finger pad touching the thumb pad)

4. Raise you right arm and using your right thumb, press on the side of your right nostril and inhale slowly through your left nostril (your inhalation should be inaudible)

5. Once you have inhaled completely, using your little and ring finger of your right hand, press on the left side of your nose and exhale slowly through the right nostril (exhalation should be inaudible)

6. Keeping the little and ring finger pressed on the left side of your nose, inhale through the right nostril.

7. Block the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril.

8. This completes one round

9. You may begin with 5 rounds daily and increase the number of rounds based on your capacity.

10. Do not strain. You should not be out of breath when practicing this. Do it with enthusiasm and faith. Keep your eyes closed when practicing.

11. Practice in this manner until you are ready to move on to the next level that involves breath retention.

Once you have gained a good level of comfort in doing this you can proceed to doing anulom vilom with kumbhaka (breath retention)

It is done as above, except each inhalation will be followed by breath retention per one’s capacity only. One should not strain.

CAUTION: Breath retention should not be practiced by individuals who suffer from high blood pressure, cardiac issues, epilepsy, stroke or other heat related disorders as breath retention increases heat in the body.

1. Sit in lotus pose, or easy pose (criss cross) or on a chair

2. Keep your spine straight and your chin slightly tucked in towards your chest

3. Rest you left hand on your left knee, palm facing up, in gyan mudra (index finger pad touching the thumb pad)

4. Raise you right arm and using your right thumb, press on the side of your right nostril and inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril (your inhalation should be inaudible) into your lungs (not your stomach)

5. Once you have inhaled, hold your breath as per your capacity while keeping the thumb pressed on the right nostril

6. Using your little and ring finger of your right hand, press on the left side of your nose and exhale slowly through the right nostril (exhalation should be inaudible)

7. Keeping the little and ring finger pressed on the left side of your nose, inhale through the right nostril. Hold your breath per your capacity

8. Block the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril

9. This completes one round of anulom vilom with kumbhaka (breath retention)

10. You may begin with 5 rounds daily and increase the number of rounds based on your capacity.

11. This exercise purifies the nadis (energy channels in the astral body)

12. Do not strain. You should not be out of breath when practicing this. Do it with enthusiasm and faith. Keep your eyes closed when practicing.

Once you have successfully mastered the above, you may proceed with anulom vilom with breath retention in the ratio of 4:16:8 for inhalation:retention:exhalation and as per your capacity move on to the ratio of 12:48:24

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44 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. aman sanan
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 21:51:44

    Thanks for explaining about nadi shodhan.I would like to know how many times we can do anulom vilom in a day.Can it be done after meals..Thankyou.

    Reply

  2. yachna
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 11:49:41

    Depends on whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced practitioner. Also depends on whether you are doing doing it for health reasons (preventive/curative), or spiritual advancement. According to Shiva Samhita, it should be done 4 times a day-morning, mid day, sunset and midnight. The nadis (energy channels in the astral body) will be purified if practiced this way for 3 months. It says to do 20 kumbhakas/breath retentions, so this makes 10 complete rounds. I would recommend that it be done per one’s capacity and build up slowly.

    Reply

  3. des
    Mar 22, 2013 @ 17:28:12

    This Alternate Nostril Breathing exercise does have a great beneficial effect ogn the body as a whole.It needs to be done consistantly and with time you will notice benefits that are very sutble over time.One thing that I noticed is that my skin and nails seem alot healthier.I am only two months into the practice and doing 4:16:8 two ten minute sessions a day.

    Reply

  4. yachna
    Mar 22, 2013 @ 17:51:28

    That’s wonderful!!Consistency is the key with anything

    Reply

  5. Anonymous
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 02:28:39

    Hello yachna

    Was going through your site. I just want to ask you why is that the breathing has to be done from left nostril…??? Is there any harm if anyone does in from right nostril and then continue with the process of alternate nostril….???

    Regards
    Roshan

    Reply

    • Shastri Manish
      Mar 18, 2014 @ 07:44:50

      Hi, this is Manish Shastri. I have been practicing YOGA since 2 yrs and would like to share what I know.

      Left nostril is related to cooling of body and right one is with heat. When we start doing Anuloma viloma, it is always advisable to first cool the body and than heat. Done other way, wouldnt give benefits like lowering blood pressure or calming mind.

      Main point here is to do breathing without making any noise (must be inaudible) and with practice develop longer inhale and exhale…do it effortlessly…dont strain yourself….if you are not feeling peaceful after completing session than you are not doing it right.
      Unless you have someone to train, dont try kumbhaka.(retention)… just continue in 1:1 (if you want u can make 8 counts for inhale and 8 for exhale…count slowly) and do it for 15 min…for 3 months and you will be able to notice difference in your nature, inner peace etc yourself….good luck…you may find your self inclining towards spirituality….

      Reply

  6. yachna
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:44:06

    Roshan,
    The three yoga texts (Shiva Samhita, Gherand Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika) all instruct for anulom vilom to begin with the left nostril first, but no reasoning is given. But in Gherand Samhita only (that I am aware of) it says
    “Nadi shuddhi is done by inhaling and mentally chanting the beej mantra for air which is ‘yung’for 16 counts, retaining the breath for 64 counts of the mantra and exhaling for 32 counts. Do the same starting with inhalation from right nostril and mentally chanting the beej mantra for the fire element which is ‘rung’ in the same ratio as above. Then focus the gaze on the tip of nose and visualizing the reflection of the moon inhale while mentally chanting ‘thum’ 16 times, retain 64 times chanting ‘vam’ and exhale 32 times chanting ‘lam’ while also visualizing the the nectar from the moon is flowing into the nadis. This helps purify the nadis and prepares one to begin practice of pranayam.”

    So I think it might have to do with the elements ( air, fire, water and earth , ether) and mantras that are chanted and the chakras that are activated as a result. If I find out more information I will let you know.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 01:57:14

    Thanks a lot Yachna

    Reply

  8. Murali
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 00:15:39

    Hi Yachna

    I am doing Anulom vilom pranayam for 10 – 15 minutes / around 40 rounds in the evening after 7 PM from past 2 weeks. I am doing this exercise on emty stomach without retention of breath. I am suffering from little high blood pressure and I am doing this to control HBP and to improve my overall health. I am feeling good now after doing this pranayam, my light headache appears to be disappeared and overall I feel better now. I am experiencing the following symptoms while doing and mostly after completion of Anulom vilom pranayam in sukhasana pose :

    1. Minor involuntary movements / jerks in both sides of body mostly I can say in both sides of legs.
    2. Feels like balancing on both sides of body.

    The said symptoms will disappear if I go to resting pose such as shavasana. My doubt is that whether the above said symptoms are good symptoms or does these leads to any danger. I learnt from internet that Anulom vilom pranayam awakens Kundalini. Does the symptoms I am experiencing leads to Kundalini awakening. I am practicing this pranayam to control BP and improve my overall health and not for the purpose of Kundalini awakening. Does 10 -15 minutes of doing Anulom vilom pranayam awakens Kundalini. Is it safe to perform Anulom vilom pranayam for 10 – 15 minutes for my condition and for improving my health and not for the purpose of Kundalini awakening.

    Regards
    Murali

    Reply

  9. yachna
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 14:59:36

    It is hard to say from just one symptom. Twitching can happen due to vayu imbalances also. See if you can notice any other symptoms in addition to the twitching. here is a link to my experiences
    https://yachnayoga.wordpress.com/yoga-asans/610-2/
    There are several other links online where you can look up other symptoms and familiarize yourself with them.

    Reply

  10. Anonymous
    May 18, 2013 @ 00:14:39

    Hello Yachna..

    Just wanted to know whether doing Anulom vilom during humid and hot weather can make you tired and feel exhausted … if it is done for long… say for eg 30 mnts.

    Thanks

    Regards
    Roshan

    Reply

  11. yachna
    May 18, 2013 @ 09:00:42

    30 minutes sounds awfully long for the average person. Always listen to your body’s signals. if you feel tired then you should cut back to a comfortable length of practice. Better to spread it out to 3-4 times a day of 10 rounds each. Also see if you are breathing noisily…you want to breathe slowly and quietly.

    Reply

  12. varun
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 04:05:39

    HI Yachna,
    I feel heaviness in left head consistently because of which i can’t concentrate, which started when i was a beginner in yoga 8 years back and i used to do fast and with audible breathing sound. I am. not able to recover even when i quit this fast breathing 5- 6 years back.Now i used to very slow with no sound for almost 4 years, yet this heaviness doesn’t go.Could you suggest a day practice which can get resolve this problem

    Reply

  13. yachna
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 11:14:15

    Varun, It could be one of many things. Sometimes certain yoga poses don’t suit everyone. For example I tried Surya namaskar for the first time last year and it triggered a migraine-the after effects of which lasted 15 days or so. I would do this if I were you. See a physician just to rule out any physical issues. See an ayurvedic vaidya just to understand the imbalances in your body so you can start towards balancing them through use of herbal preparation, diet choices etc. Temporarily suspend all yogic practices/pranayama etc for a while (maybe 1-2 months). After that slowly introduce one asan from you regular practice and do it for 7-10 days and see if you notice any negative symptoms. If not then add another asan and practice for 7-10 days. This way if you notice something that causes problems you will be able to trace it back to the pose or practice that is causing it. Eliminate that pose. Another very important thing is concluding your yogic practice with Shavasan. The time you must spend doing shavasan should be 1/4 of the time of your yogic asana practice. So if you spend 20 minutes on asans, do 5 minutes of shavasan. In your case add 2-3 mote mins to shavasan. Heaviness can also be from stress and anxiety. If you are always wound up, anxious, worried thinking too much it can make you feel imbalanced, heavy headed and spaced out. Practice grounding techniques in the mean time:
    -Prithvi Mudra
    -Sitting on the floor, more of shavasan, lotus pose , vajrasasan etc)
    -visualization techniques for grounding http://www.energy-healing-info.com/grounding-techniques.html
    -slow walks (brisk walks will increase vayu nad anxiety)
    – prana mudra https://yachnayoga.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/mystery-of-life/
    -sip warm water and eat only room temp or warm foods
    – try to meditate
    -walk barefoot or purchase an acupressure board for standing on 2- 5mins daily
    -use more of red yellow and orange colors (food, clothes etc) as they are more grounding.
    This will make you feel calm, settled and centered and grounded.
    Also when you reintroduce yoga poses start out with the ones that work on the root chakra to help you ground.

    Reply

  14. Gouri
    Oct 17, 2013 @ 11:29:26

    Thank you, to give a simple explanation of nadi sudhi pranayama.

    Reply

  15. yachna
    Oct 17, 2013 @ 16:55:27

    Thank you for visiting Gouri 🙂

    Reply

  16. Yoga Madrid
    Nov 02, 2013 @ 17:37:32

    Hi! I was told in India that when you do Anulom Vilom without retention is considered a kriya, and when retention is done it is proper pranayama. Is there a different name for each version or are both named Anulom Vilom/Nadi Shodhana with no distinction?

    Reply

  17. yachna
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 16:57:00

    Hi Yoga Madrid. Nadi Shodhana just means clearing or purifying of the energy channels which is done prior to Pranayam practices. So it can be inferred it is a kriya…nadi shodhana is practiced before pranayama but it is often classified as a pranayama. It has been referred to as Pranayam by BKS Iyengar in his book Light on Yoga.

    Reply

  18. Arun Prasath
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 21:40:39

    I’m arun suffered by Continous Migraine for past 4 months, had CT Scan everything normal. Doctor told me it is migraine. Suffering lot everyday and every minute migraine. Internet results says Anulom-Vilom helps migraine. Doing Anulom-Vilom for past 10 days twice a day, after anulom-vilom having peace and calm head, it is extended only for few hours. Again i’m getting migraine. I’m in need of permanent cure for migraine. what should i do ? please help me, if you know and if you can. Thanks.

    Reply

  19. yachna
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 11:18:18

    Arun, Sorry to hear about your debilitating migraines. Here are some tips for physical and metaphysical healing. Keep an eye for foods you eat or activities you do that might trigger the migraines. For example maggi noodles used to trigger migraines in me within 10-20 minutes of eating. Try to avoid those foods that you are suspicious of. Certain exercises/yoga or any type of exercise that produces strain in the neck and shoulders can trigger migraines. Surya Namaskar triggered migraine in me and also an exercise machine for tummy exercises strained my neck and triggered a migraine. So keep an eye on that also.
    Eliminate the use of black, purple, blue colors in clothes, gemstones, foods etc. Favor more the red, yellow, orange and green colors. Donate some of your black, blue clothes. Practice grounding techniques. Do visualization meditation starting with the heart chakra. Breathe into the chest (visualize this in your mind) green color entering, growing and spreading in your chest area and surrounding the organs here like heart, lungs, thymus gland. After a few minutes move down to manipur chakra and viusalize bright yellow color in this are around all the organs. Then move down to Sacral Chakra and visualise orange light entering and spreading. End with red color in the root chakra spreading and going into and out of your feet. Spend the most time here. You can also purchase a yellow chandan paste that is sold in stores. It is a small plastic container and has yellow sandalwood paste used for puja. Rub this on your third eye and leave it on there. You can also spread it across your forehead and the sides/temples. This will soothe your third eye chakra.
    Meditate and focus on nose breathing only- slow and simple-no deep breathing. This will help you de-stress and ground and relax which is very important because if you continue to stress it doesn’t matter what you do you won’t benefit. Start with Sohum meditation or Zazen meditation for 30 minutes a day.

    Here is a you tube link for a mudra for migraine

    Hope this helps. Please let me know if you notice and improvement.

    Reply

  20. SM (@bluwooter)
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 19:29:34

    Hi Yachna,
    My question is – how and why is it so important to do pranayama on empty stomach? Should it be always done on empty stomach? I hardly get any time in the morning when the stomach is really empty due to other priorities, so would it be beneficial if I do 10-20 rounds after an hour or two of dinner?
    Please advise.

    Reply

    • yachna
      Sep 11, 2014 @ 15:48:35

      I think at least 3 hrs after a light meal you can do it. For me the the best time is 30-40 minutes before a meal. I don’t snack in between so ,my stomach gets a chance to assimilate the previous meal. Pranaym is not something to be trifled with. I take it very seriously. Don’t overdo it. Just a few rounds. If you are under the direct guidance of a guru for spiritual advancement they have very strict rules on what can be consumed and how much. For regular householders it is good to just do a few rounds for balancing the two hemishperes of the brain for a calming effect and oxygenation.

      Reply

  21. kiran kumar
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 23:53:59

    I do anulom vilom for 15 min in the morning and 10 min in the evening.I inhale for a count of 10 and exhale for a count of 10.Hope this is fine.I read few books on pranayam like …patanjali yoga sutra,hatha pradipika,pranayam rahasya,light on pranayam etc.I think we can do it for years together…kiran

    Reply

  22. Subhash Jain
    Jul 14, 2015 @ 20:50:04

    Thanks for giving a simple & good explanation about nadi shodhan.I would like to know- Can it be done sitting on a chair. .Thank you. – scjain

    Reply

    • yachna
      Jul 16, 2015 @ 07:54:36

      as long as the spine posture is maintained well, sitting on a chair should be fine. Padma asan is recommended as it naturally keeps the spine in proper alignment. Also Vajrasan is a good pose to sit in.

      Reply

  23. CHOWDHURY AMINUL Islam
    Apr 18, 2016 @ 01:18:56

    Can I do anulom vilom after a heavy work out (not yoga) in the morning, specially after my body gets relaxed? Please shed some light on this issue.

    Reply

    • yachna
      Apr 18, 2016 @ 07:30:15

      I’m not aware of any issues related with doing anulom vilom after exercise. As long as you have given yourself enough time to cool down and relax it should be fine.

      Reply

  24. sm n
    Jul 05, 2016 @ 01:03:24

    Hi..Yachna….first of I am really appreciate you, as your giving answers to each and every questions raised. I have one doubt can i do anulom vilom after fat burn exercises. I have started practice of abs exercise . . Can i continue after abs exercise or before Kindly reply.

    Reply

    • yachna
      Jul 06, 2016 @ 08:02:08

      I don’t see any reason why you cannot do anulom vilom after exercise. Just give yourself some time to cool down after exercise. All asanas and exercise are done before pranayam and pranayam is done prior to meditation.

      Reply

  25. debesh karki
    Jul 23, 2016 @ 06:56:31

    hello mam
    i am suffering from adverse affects of kapalbhati after doing it watching from tv (baba Ramdevs Show). I cant concentrate and my mind gets clouded. I cant understand a situation as a result of which I have become very irritable. help me somehow. My life has become kind of hell.does it have any solution

    Reply

    • yachna
      Jul 27, 2016 @ 08:52:06

      the symptoms you listed are very general and vague symptoms that can happen for various reasons and cannot be attributed singularly to kapalbhati. Please seek guidance from a yoga professional on kapalbhati. Also see a doctor. Unless you provide any more physical symptoms it is hard to know what is really going on. Try some guided meditation to help calm your nerves. Soak 10 almonds at night and eat first thing in the morning with a plumy date and warm milk. Completely stop garlic, onion and spicy foods. Chew fennel seeds few times a day after meals.All this will soothe nerves and calm you. Have a good intake of cool or warm water. Remind yourself to breathe slowly. Do japa in evening at least 2 rounds of rosary. The more the better. Basically at least 10 minutes of japa. Pick a simple mantra but don’t rush chanting or it will not benefit you. Inhale and as you exhale chant the mantra. Last round can be internal chanting. Stick with this for 2-4 weeks at least.

      Reply

  26. plagaise1
    Oct 30, 2016 @ 09:57:28

    Hello. If this technique is practiced for a long enough time, will it lead to the awakening of kundalini? I have also read on some sites that this technique will awaken kundalini quickly if I concentrate on the base of the spine while I do this technique. Do you know if this true?

    Reply

    • yachna
      Nov 09, 2016 @ 12:32:51

      Yoga kriyas, pranayams etc are techniques that help awaken and raise the kundalini energy form base to spine. Personally I don’t employ these techniques as they should not be done without a guru who has already accomplished this in a safe manner. Also a journey down this path requires strict discipline. One has to be watchful of what they eat. Yogis are allowed only certain food and most are off limits.I personally don’t know anyone who has awakened and raised their kundalini as such people are extremely rare. It is not something that can be achieved very easily. But I would again recommend not doing this unless you have a guru who has experienced this himself or herself.

      Reply

  27. ROSHAN R ULLAL
    Nov 26, 2016 @ 04:56:56

    It helps in cleansing the chakras and calms the mind. If you turn inwards with single pointed focus (depends on different techniques adopted) it will help in progressing spiritually and with the help of a realised guru we can awaken the kundalini. Keeping a strict discipline also helps or it may slowly make you become conscious about everything around and may also help you to make changes about the food as well. If someone is really looking to progress on the spiritual path .. may be look for a guru who can help. I personally love a guru and his name is Sri M and also follow videos of Sadhguru Jaggi vasudev. People who are interested can check their videos on youtube.

    Reply

  28. Rajesh
    Feb 18, 2017 @ 19:15:14

    Madam,
    When practising retention, where should the breath be retained? In our stomach or lungs?
    Thanks.

    Reply

  29. partha sarathy
    May 08, 2017 @ 03:29:35

    Madam,
    great work, pls continue

    Reply

  30. partha sarathy
    May 08, 2017 @ 03:31:04

    Madam,

    I can inhale to a count of 8 in my left nostril but unable to exhale to the count of 8. Exhalation is approx. 4 or 5 counts in my right nostril. Kindly let me know how to correct myself

    Reply

    • yachna
      May 08, 2017 @ 05:54:10

      My recommendation to you would be to not do any counts at first. Just inhale through left and exhale through right alternating between both nostril and doing it at a pace that feels comfortable to you. Later you might want to time yourself and observe. Don’t force if it doesn’t feel comfortable.

      Reply

      • Nagen P
        Oct 19, 2017 @ 20:54:52

        Dear Yachna,

        Thanks a lot for your brilliant work in this post. You have been a guidance to all the people in this blog.
        I am a practitioner of few yoga workouts. So, i have basic knowledge in pranayama. However, i suffered from deviated septum right from my birth. I have undergone 2 surgeries to correct it partially. But still the septum is deviated so some degree.
        So whenever i do ‘Anuloma Viloma’ its impossible for me to breath without producing a slight ‘hissing’ sound from my any of the nostril.
        Secondly, most of the times, one of my nostril is partially blocked. This is also because of my long time sinusitis. Apart from this problem i don’t have any other health issues.
        From your post, i understood that i should breath without any noise. In order to do it, i have to inhale at least for 10 seconds ( to make it very slow and noiseless) and exhale at least for 20 seconds. So the Kumbhaka part has to be for 40 seconds going by this order and the total cycle of 70seconds for half round seems very stress full for me.
        I am comfortable for a time duration of 5- 20 – 10 seconds . But this time duration gives a noisy ( hissy) breathing only. Kindly advice if this is allowed.

        Please advice if my ‘hisssing’ sound is allowable under the protocols of ‘Anuloma Viloma’.

        Arvind

      • yachna
        Oct 21, 2017 @ 11:11:48

        Hello Nagen, Thank you for your positive comment. Some people tend to do pranayam very nosily and aggressively so it is advisable to them to avoid doing that. But we all have minor challenges we have to work around and that is just fine. I too have to deal with blocked left nostril. Sarvangasan is a very good asana for that (do warm ups of course prior to it). You can break it down in sets and do 3-6 set of 60 seconds or 30 seconds each (respectively). I like to practice Butyeko breathing as that helps oxygenate all tissues and unblocks the nose. You can find plenty information on that online. But I have included a link below: http://www.normalbreathing.com/learn-4B-Emerg-Proc-Others.php
        Its the same technique that is useful in multiple health conditions ranging from blocked nostril to cancer.

  31. partha sarathy
    May 08, 2017 @ 03:32:36

    While doing anulom vilom in my case, I am able to inhale more than exhalation, pls let me know whether this is okay. Or I need to reduce my inhalation in order to exhale more or double the inhalation

    Reply

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