MALA BEADS – WHAT ARE THEY? AND WHY WOULD I WANT A SET?
If you’ve taken a handful of yoga classes, you’ve probably seen at least one of these by now. They look like a long beaded necklace with some kind of tassel or gemstone in the middle of the strand. Some yogis wear them long around their neck as necklaces, some wear them wrapped a few times around their wrists as bracelets. But these aren’t just another yoga fad, nor are these your typical trendy jewelry. They are actually ancient tools for meditation, dating back to before the Buddha’s time and they’re called mala beads. Simply put, mala beads are traditional yoga tools that help with prayer and meditation: you repeat a mantra with each bead you touch, a lot like a Catholic rosary.
This sādhanā (practice) is known in Sanskrit as a japa. Malas are typically made with 18, 27, 54 or 108 beads. And we are about to give you an opportunity to make your own! Join us on May 9th in the cafe at Kodawari with Holly Smith, local mala maker and yoga teacher extraordinaire, to build your own mala (or lovingly prepare a gift for someone). Click here to sign up.
Malas, in Tibetan Buddhism, usually consist of 108 beads – sometimes there is a 109th stone called a lead bead or guru stone.
Sometimes the strands are half of 108 (54) or a quarter (27), in which case you would simply do more repetitions. Why 108? It is said there are 108 reasons why this number is considered sacred in the yoga practice…But back to malas and how to use them…
How to use a Mala:
- First you need to choose one or better yet, might we suggest that you make one of your own? In either case, like all things, trust your intuition, your feeling, your gut when you select a mala or the beads to make your mala. Its an energy that you want to feel aligned with just like when you choose a yoga class or yoga teacher or yoga style. When it’s right, the energetic possibilities are endless.
- If used during a seated meditation, you will hold the mala and repeat your mantra aloud or silently for each bead that you touch between your thumb and forefinger, 108 times. When arriving at the lead bead, one turns the mala around and goes back in the opposite direction to continue the meditation.
- Like all meditations, your mind will eventually wander and start thinking distracting thoughts. Be patient and kind with yourself. The practice of bringing your attention back to your mantra and your beads is the practice of awareness…do so gently with kindness, patience and without judgement.
- Choosing a mantra is an important process as well. Some yogis like to chant traditional Sanskrit japas like: Om Namah Shivaya to help with self confidence and empowerment.(“I recognize and honour the divine within myself”). Or Shanti to help with inner peace, forgiveness and compassion (Shanti means Peace). Or sometimes yogis choose a word in English that resonates, like Love or Jesus or Gratitude.
- If sitting meditation isn’t your thing, you can enhance your asana practice by placing the Mala at the top of your mat, and each time your focus your gaze there, you can repeat your mantra as you move through your vinyasa.
And just in case the reference to the rosary beads gave you pause, you don’t have to be religious or have any spiritual practice to wear a mala. You can, of course simply wear them because they are beautiful.
Or you find that you resonate with or just plain old like the sacred seeds or gemstones that they mala is made from. Often, people are drawn to a particular necklace because of its simple beauty, or because more than anything you might believe in the healing qualities of the stones used…no matter what it may be we want to build with you a way to calm the mind and provide inner peace. Sometimes, it is as simple as making yourself a necklace.
We look forward to seeing you at the studio, Annette