Malas – for deeper meditation and mindfulness
Malas have become a popular accessory for yoga and meditation practitioners. Although they are beautiful hanging around your neck or wrapped around your arm, these beaded strings can be powerful tools to help you along your spiritual journey.
Mala beads have their roots in ancient Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. A mala (which means garland in Sanskrit) is used to keep track of the repetition of a mantra or the names of a deity during meditation. This kind of meditation, where something is being recited, is known as japa meditation.
Ancient Romans who visited India understood japa as jap, which to them meant ‘Rose’. Thus, they called these strings of beads rosaries. Today malas or rosaries feature in religions like Christianity, Islam and Catholicism.
Traditionally mala beads were made of Rudraksha seeds, yak bone, Bodhi seeds, wood or lotus seed beads. Today you can also find mala beads made from sandalwood, rosewood or gemstones. The properties of the gemstones combine with your intentions and mantras in order to create powerful shifts in your life.
Malas usually have 108 beads. A 109th bead is larger and called the guru, bindu, sumeru or stupa beads. The guru bead symbolises gratitude for everyone who has guided us on our spiritual path and our connection with the divine.
You can also get shorter and longer mala necklaces and bracelets that have variations of this number, such as 21, 54 or 216 beads, for shorter and longer meditations. There is often a tassel attached to the guru bead, this tassel represents oneness – our connection with ourselves, our higher selves and the collective consciousness.
There are a few different reasons why malas have 108 beads (excluding the counters, spacers and guru bead). One explanation is a formula of 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108. These numbers represent the following:
- Our 6 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought)
- The 3 forms of time (past, present and future)
- 2 conditions of our hearts, minds, and intentions (pure and impure)
- The 3 disturbing emotional states or ‘kleshia’ (like, dislike and indifference).
For some 108 symbolises the 108 impurities and flaws that one must overcome, while others link the 108 beads to the 108 lines of energy believed to flow from your heart chakra to the universe.
Mala beads are used as a spiritual tool and should be handled with respect. You should avoid touching or placing them on the ground (unless it is as a part of a sacred ritual).
Your mala is a very personal spiritual tool and choosing your mala could be seen as a ritual in itself. Pay close attention to your intuition. If you feel drawn to a certain one, it is likely the one that you need in that moment.
You can also choose your mala based on the intention or energy that you would like to cultivate more of in your life. The materials used to make mala beads all have their own unique and specific vibrations and metaphysical properties. These can guide you when choosing your mala beads. You could choose a mala with Lava stones and Rudraksha seeds to help with grounding or an Amethyst mala to help with healing and to encourage you to feel calm and gain focus. The Crystal Bible will show you all you need to know about which crystals to choose for your mala.
You can also select a mala based on the colour of the stones. Specific colours are linked to your chakras and malas that correspond to these colours will help with unblocking and balancing corresponding chakras.
You can read more about your chakras here.
When you first receive your mala, you need to cleanse and activate it. While many companies take care with the energies that their malas are surrounded with, you still want to attune your new mala to your own energy and, perhaps, program it for a specific intention. Cleansing and programming your mala is very similar to cleansing and programming crystals or gemstones.
You can run your mala through the smoke of a smudge stick to cleanse it. Once it is cleansed, hold your mala in your hands, against your heart or on your third eye. Picture the energy that you would like to infuse it with flowing from you, into your mala. Feel the feeling that you want to generate, like love or passion or abundance. It also could also help if you picture the flow of energy as being a certain colour: pink for romantic love, red for passion, green for abundance or black/dark brown for grounding.
You can speak your intention out loud or even repeat a mantra at this time.
Make this moment a ritual by calming and clearing your mind and lighting candles (with the corresponding colours). You can also use incense to infuse certain intentions into your mala.
Once you have activated or programmed your mala you can seal the intention by chanting: ‘Om Hrim Namah Sivaya Om’. This is a powerful mantra that invokes both Lord Shiva and Shakti – the divine couple who exist in eternal bliss. This mantra brings together and balances the masculine and feminine and opens your mind to the divine.
A simpler mantra for this is: ‘So be it, so it is’.
After sealing your intention sit quietly for a few minutes and absorb the energy while slowly coming out of your meditative space.
Now you have cleansed and activated your mala you can meditate with your mala beads.
- Sit in a comfortable seated position in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed.
- Start to focus on your breathing and clearing your mind.
- Bring your focus to the intention for your meditation and focus on inviting that energy in.
- Next, bring your focus to your mantra.
- Hold your mala comfortably in your right hand with your thumb on the guru bead and the first bead resting gently on your middle or ring finger. Avoid using your index finger to handle the beads as this finger represent your ego mind – the biggest obstacle in obtaining enlightenment.
- Start by reciting the first repetition of your mantra.
- As you finish the first repetition of your mantra, slide your thumb to the next bead.
- Continue repeating your mantra and moving to the next bead on the string until you get back to the guru bead.
- Once you reach the guru bead you have done 108 repetitions of your mantra.
- If you wish to continue and do another 108 repetitions turn the mala around and work backwards. Moving across the guru bead is seen as ‘passing over’ god or your guru.
Instead of using a mantra you could choose to focus only on your breathing instead. Move along the beads as you finish a cycle of inhalation and exhalation (one inhale and an exhale per bead). You can also recite gratitudes instead of mantras. Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to invite more blessings into your life and increase your manifestations.
The point of using a mala is to keep track of the repetition of a mantra. It helps you to focus fully on your mantra and its intention and by doing that you can slip even deeper into your meditation without worrying where you are with your counting – which can be distracting in and of itself.
The mantra you use is completely up to you and what you want to get out of a specific meditation session. You can go for a simple ‘Ohm’ or ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ or even ‘Hail Mary, full of Grace…’ You can also repeat more complicated or longer mantras like the Gayatri mantra.
You can also use personalised mantras that focus on something that you are healing or working on inviting into your life like ‘I love and accept myself’ or ‘I am fully open to abundance and prosperity’ (in which case you might want to combine your mantra with a mala made with Green Aventurine.)
To cleanse and balance your chakras you can focus on the corresponding colour with each breath. Focus on breathing the colour in when you inhale and breathe it out when you exhale.
The more you use your mala while meditating, the more it will become infused with your intention. You can then carry this energy with you throughout your day by wearing your mala either on your wrist or on your arm.
By using a mala, you start to practice the sixth and seventh limbs of yoga: Dharana and Dhyana. Dharana is concentration and Dhyana is meditation. Malas help you to infuse these two limbs of yoga and to cultivate a quiet and peaceful mind.
The more you use your mala the more it will become infused with the energy and soon you will be able to slip into that same vibration just by touching your mala. It is a way to remind you to come back to the present moment and to stay focused on your intentions in order to manifest them into your life. While your mala does not hold its own mystical power (besides the natural vibrations of the material) it is an extremely powerful tool that can help guide you deeper into your spiritual journey.
Malas come in all designs, from those strung with traditional Rudraksha seeds to more intricate designs that draw on the properties of crystals.
You can check out Seeds of Wonder’s handmade mala necklace range here. Remember to keep checking back as we are always adding new designs.