Leigh: Hullo, Lady B! Wonderful to see you. I am surprised you are hostessing a ball with Thursday fast approaching.
Lady B: Thursday? (aside) Miss Dare, what happens Thursday?
Leigh: So much to do! The turkey and pies and peas and yams and more pies…
Tessa: Lady B, our guest is referring to Thanksgiving. It’s this Thursday!
Lady B: Oh, yes. That American holiday all my authoresses are so fond of. This year, I thought of making an American feast myself. But of course, the servants will do the cooking.
Leigh: How nice. I’m not sure where my kitchen staff ran off to…
Tessa: Neither do I! We Americans are used to doing all the shopping, preparations, and cooking ourselves. Not to mention the cleaning up. It can be so stressful. That’s why I invited Miss LaValle today. She’s not only a talented authoress, but a yoga instructor!
Lady B: A what?
Leigh: I thought I could share some relaxation techniques to help the rest of us servant-less mortals through the holidays.
Lady B: I do find ratafia to be relaxing myself.
Tessa nods enthusiastically.
Leigh: Well, yes, but there are other more healthful ways—
Lady B: Such as peering at a handsome pair of legs? I find that relaxing AND stimulating.
Leigh: There are many exercises that can be both relaxing and, er, stimulating. The goal is to be happily peaceful, after all. Not asleep.
Lady B: I certainly do not wish my guests to fall asleep in my ballroom.
Leigh: Of course not. At least, not until after the turkey is served.
Lady B: So, what shall we do? I have seen those strange poses in naughty books…
Leigh: Nothing like that, at least not tonight.
Tessa: Too bad!
Leigh, looking a bit harried: The best relaxation technique is one that is simple, available at all moments, and widely used by heroines everywhere. Breathing! Or, taking deep breaths, to be more precise. You see, the more oxygen we draw into our bloodstream, the less our heart has to work. Shall we try it?
Lady B: Yes! And I think all our guests should try along at home.
Leigh: To begin, take a deep inhale of at least four counts. And when I say inhale, I do not mean simply pressing your bosom again your bodice to show off your pale orbs to their best advantage.
Tessa: But it works so well.
Leigh: Distracts the hero every time, I agree. But for tonight, let’s draw our breath all the way down into our belly, which will be soft and full.
Lady B: Not the easiest in a corset.
Leigh: And corsets are so relaxing? I thought not. We will breathe in for four counts, letting our belly open. Then breathe out for six count, particularly feeling our shoulders relax.
Lady B, taking a deep breath and exhaling: It is rather like sighing.
Leigh: Something else our heroines do so well. Taking five such breaths, with the exhale longer than the inhale, will help drown any unpleasantness. The trick with the breath is trying not to hurry. It’s not a race at all. The more we can focus our mind on what we are doing, the more effective the exercise.
Lady B: I do not exercise, as a rule. That is something for horses. But I do feel better. What else do you have to show us, Miss LaValle?
Leigh: If you want to increase your breath capacity, you can raise your hands overhead as you inhale and lower them as you exhale.
Tessa, grumbling: Impossible in these sleeves, as gorgeous as they are.
Leigh: Yes, they are gorgeous, if a bit poufy. When one is feeling rather poufy themselves, basic side bends and gentle twists are a wonderful way to relieve pressure in the stomach. Another motion, one most effective at restoring the nervous system, is a forward bend. I would recommend performing it in a seated position, taking care to let the head relax toward the heart as you reach for your toes.
Lady B: My toes! I cannot remember the last time I touched my toes. One has servants for these things.
Leigh: That is too bad. Four breaths in a comfortable seated forward bend (perhaps with knees bent) can change everything.
Lady B: Everything?
Leigh: Everything. It is very calming. Conversely, a back bend is enervating and brings energy to our nervous system. It can be performed after a seated forward bend by placing your hands on the floor behind you and lifting your bosom to the ceiling.
Lady B: I always lift my bosom to the ceiling.
Leigh glances at Lady B’s bosom and quickly away: Lastly, no matter the time of the year, remembering what we have to be grateful for is always a wonderful way to unwind. For me, I am grateful you have invited me to your illustrious ballroom. Thank you for having me!
Tessa: Thank you so much for joining us, Leigh! I have a whole week with the darelings home from school, and I’m going to need some relaxation techniques.
Do you know who else could use some relaxation techniques? Cat Raybourne, the heroine of Leigh’s fabulous novella The Misbehaving Marquess! Her wandering husband has just returned–and he wants more than cup of tea. The Misbehaving Marquessis available digitally for just $0.99.
Having awaited the return of her husband for half a decade, Catherine Raybourne, the Marchioness of Foster, has no intention of reconciling with her misbehaving marquess. But when he insists he needs an heir-immediately-she must confront her own lingering desires. Can she protect her heart while attempting to win his once again?
More about Leigh: Leigh LaValle lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. When she is not writing, mommying or reading, she is rarely seen cleaning. More often she is found hiking or, when she is really lucky, in the white powder of the ski slopes. She is also a devoted yoga practitioner and instructor. Find her online at www.LeighLaValle.com.
When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season gets to you, what do you do to unwind? Yoga? A hot bath? Ratafia?