Rosalind Brown

June 26, 2024 
The following is from Rosalind Brown's Practice. Brown was born in 1987, grew up in Cambridge, England, and now lives in Norwich. Her work has been published in The Paris Review, Best British Short Stories 2017, Lighthouse, Ambit, MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture, and Propel Magazine.

In anticipation of yoga she is instantly more careful in her movements, stripping swiftly and putting on a vest and her pyjama bottoms, bringing her rolled mat and laying it precisely square on the floor. In one swift push unrolls the whole thing to the end. Steps to the bottom of the mat and stands for a moment.

Article continues below

Then she starts to shake: her arms going everywhere – shaking her hands from the wrists like little flapping handkerchiefs – her breasts waggling as she tussles her shoulders back and forth – then holding the back of a chair she shakes each leg in turn from the ankle, from the knee, and then wholly from the hip – then her head wobbling, letting the face-flesh go here and there over the bones – then squats slightly and wobbles the flesh of her bum – and then the same all over again, she stamps from foot to foot and shakes, takes great deep breaths and flings her limbs through space, tries to move everywhere inside herself, moving moving moving.

After a few minutes she stops and gets straight down on her back. Lies there, feeling her body. She is warm. A loose vibrant warmth all through her limbs.

She brings her knees up, takes hold of the back of her legs and begins to roll up and down her spine – not entirely smoothly, there is a catch at one or other vertebra – and then with an extra spurt comes up and over onto her hands and knees. Straightaway inhaling and tilting into her hips, all the way through her back shoulders neck, then back the other way arching her body, explaining to Miles how to start the movement at the tailbone and let it travel up—

No: no explaining. She finds her focus again like a small grey circle.

Article continues below

Sinks back onto her haunches and her shoulders come out into a long stretch, then up, her bottom high in the air and a very wholesome force coming down through her shoulders. She pushes into the whole of her palms and fingertips, and settles into stillness. Inhales, then sighs hard through her mouth: something slight goes out of her. A stunning quiet in her mind, which she tries to accept will not last.

Halfway through her sun salutations she realises Rich is her spectator now, she has brought him in to watch her. And has already elaborated some of the detail: how he can’t quite appreciate the serious work of her being really in her body, working it from the inside out, but he does notice in a professional capacity the way her joints move easily through themselves, as if lubricated. He can admire the steadiness of her plank pose as she lowers to the ground. How she knows which movements to do, in what order. And he likes it when she sticks her bum in the air.

To break his gaze she replaces him with the scholar, who watches with a different kind of professional interest, perhaps a truer interest, whatever that means, but whose upper body strength let’s face it would not be sufficient for any of this. She dismisses him with a little smile, and continues.

After several more rounds of raising and bending and lowering and twisting, she turns to the window: to address the trees. Brings her bare foot up to plant the sole on her inside thigh, her knee jutting sideways out. Finds her balance: here. This is her favourite part. There is a deep vertical root going down through her spine and leg into the floor.

Then she lifts her closed palms and spreads them joyfully into two overhead branches. She is a tree. She respectfully greets the bare sunlit trees in the bare sunlit winter. She delights in being a tree. The thick sideways branch of her leg threatens to unbalance her, and she squeezes hard and feels the weight of it directing down deep and strong into the ground. What she ought to do here is try closing her eyes, to encourage the ankle to wobble and strengthen itself. But, but, this clear-eyed and open treeness. She breathes like a breeze with her face all open in a loose smile, as she never would in front of anyone. After a time, with delicacy and dignity, she removes the leg, places the foot back on the ground, and takes the pose on the other side. She is a tree.

Article continues below

Next she gets down to the ground in a low wide squat like a mushroom, and sits there listening to her hips opening. Wisdom pours through, moving from somewhere to somewhere. She takes a few glad breaths. Then lowers onto her bum and takes a careful roll backwards, letting the momentum lift her legs and back right off the ground, bracing her hands under her ribs, and heaving her legs up to an awkward vertical. She has no great love for the shoulder stand. Her legs so irrelevantly stuck up there, and the flab of her tummy in rolls, staring at her where the vest has fallen away. She breathes with constriction: now she is wholly unlike a tree, no cool summer rain in her leaves and branches, just a hot spike of force down through her, the difficult weight of her body plunging down into her shoulders.

When it feels like too much, she claims the reward: lets her legs tip slowly backwards over her head, her toes approaching the floor from their strange angle, and her whole back is drawn out very deeply. Must keep her neck relaxed or else she will hurt herself. The very deep pull of it: breathes, yes, good: then slowly draws in her legs and returns her feet to the mat. How flatly spreading her back now meets the floor, and there are pulses and pinches of energy rushing out through her pelvis. She rolls her head from side to side, feeling the currents surging, and diminishing.

The only thing left is two twists which are utterly benevolent, like two slow fish.


From Practice by Rosalind Brown. Used with permission of the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2024 by Rosalind Brown.

Article continues below

More Story
Christopher Chen on Jorge Luis Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” The Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast features a series of conversations with past and present Windham-Campbell Prize...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.