Saturday, June 26, 2010

Putting My Mat Next to Hers: The Mother and Daughter Yoga Mala

I celebrated the summer solstice by completing a yoga mala, a practice named for the string of prayer beads used in many Eastern traditions. The mala, usually practiced during solstices or the New Year, consists of 108 sun salutations, one for each of the beads on the string.

One. Hundred. And. Eight.

It took me a few days to write this blog this because I couldn’t lift my hands to reach the keyboard until today. Also, all my meals have been eaten over the sink, since I’m declining to make that long reach for plates on a shelf that’s suddenly too high for my whimpering biceps.

But really, I’m fine.

The best part of the practice was that my 15-year-old daughter, Emma, did it with me. I was conducting my usual mombabble the night before: I’mdoingthemala tomorrow BLAH BLAH BLAH [insert the sound of Charlie Brown adults here], when I heard myself saying that the mala was good luck for the season ahead, and that many people said it was yoga magic. Turns out I had her at “good luck.” She was dressed and ready to go at 6 a.m. the next day, a gloriously sleep-in-able summer morning. I wondered if she were the only teen awake at that hour in the entire Twin Cities.

We arrived at the yoga studio. It’s a sacred place for me, a location that has offered safety, wisdom and great leaps of growth over the years. I love Tarana the way ten-year-olds still fiercely love their threadbare stuffed animals of babyhood. Emma’s impression? Not so much. Its pumpkin patch sincerity was lost on her, and she blasted off a series of fish eye signals, quickly letting me know that this joint was too smelly, too hot and entirely too full of saggy, lumpy grownups. I closed my eyes, made a mudra and thought about how the Buddha never had teenagers.

The instructor suggested that we form a circle shape. She called it a mandala, but I knew it from kindergarten days as “a big cherry pie.” She talked about how this shape was conducive to mutual support, allowing us to draw upon the energy of our neighbors during the practice.

That’s when I knew I’d be able to complete every last one of those one oh eight salutes, because my mat was next to the world’s single greatest renewable energy source, Emma Bao Wei.

We got started. One sun salutation. Two sun salutations. I thought about how someone needed to write the yoga equivalent of Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer On The Wall for malas.

I tried very hard to Stay on My Mat during the practice, and not get all Mommyish on her when she sat one out in child’s pose. But I felt her; oh man, did I feel her. There is no way to be close to Emma and not know she’s there.

Fifty sun salutations. Fifty one sun salutations.

She was still generating power. Her energy pummels me into submission on a regular basis, but today I was using it to push my ancient keister over the finish line. She dragged me along with her, as I’m sure she feels she’s been doing for quite some time now.

One hundred and seven salutations. One hundred and eight sun salutations. If the instructor had said, “Let’s do one more for good luck,” the class would have risen up and rolled her in her own yoga mat. We were done.

I looked over at Emma. She raised an ironic eyebrow and wiped her beautiful brow. She, as always, was ready for more.

Today, June 26, is the fifteenth anniversary of the day Emma was first placed in my arms. It was another hot, stuffy and magic-filled room, just 6,950 miles away from the yoga studio where we finished our mala together. I remember how light she was when I held her. And how heavy. For someone who had the weight and volume of a loaf of Wonder Bread, she also seemed to contain quite of few of Mr. Whitman’s multitudes, perhaps several more than the average person.

I remember looking in her eyes. I thought it was me who was was assessing her, but I realize now that she was also completing a good once-over. The look I got back from those dark, dark eyes was steady and strong. “This chick isn’t much,” it said, “but I think I can make it work.” She’s been doing her best these past fifteen years, dragging me along toward the places she knows she wants to go, pushing me over the finish line by dint of her endless power and unfailing tenacity.

I knew I loved her from the first moment I held her. And the more I’ve gotten to know her, the more I’ve realized that she will always be essentially un-holdable. This is a person who will power the world someday, and I’m just lucky enough to have had my mat next to hers for these past fifteen years.

I love you, Emma. Happy Adoption Day.


  1. First, I teared up at Toy Story 3 -- now this. It's been one hell of an emotional roller coaster this week.

    But seriously, Jules... not only heartfelt, but beautifully written. (You should think about writing for a living....) Thanks for sharing.

    Oh -- and Happy Adoption Day, Demanda.

    - Uncle Joel

  2. Very adorable. I love that you two shared that together. (And yes, she was likely THE only teen (or perhaps 20-something) awake and dressed to stretch at such an hour :)