How to Use Mala Beads for Yoga and Meditation

If you practice yoga or meditation regularly, you may want to consider using mala beads as a meditation aid. Mala beads are a strand of 108 beads used for keeping count during mantra meditations. Malas can also be made of 27 beads or 21 beads for use in shorter meditations. Malas can be used during meditation, they can be made from gemstones that match the intention of your practice, and often malas are placed in shrines as a reminder of affirmations. Malas are also referred to as mala beads, Buddhist beads or Buddhist prayer beads. Mala beads have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries and the traditional Rudraksha mala dates back to the 10th century.

How to Use a Mala

Using a mala is simple, easy, and enjoyable. In the beginning, you should clarify the intention of your practice and choose your mantra or affirmation. Then, find a comfortable space and sit quietly in a cross legged position. Close your eyes and observe the speed and depth of your natural breath. Begin to breathe deeply and bring your focus and attention onto your mantra or affirmation. Next, hang the first mala bead gently on the middle or ring finger of your right hand. Place your thumb on the guru bead and begin reciting your mantra. At the end of the mantra push the mala bead away with your thumb and move onto the next bead for another round. Continue until you reach a count on 7, 21, 27, or 108. If you wish to do another round of mantras or affirmations, do not skip over the guru bead. Instead, turn the mala around and move in the opposite direction. 

Types and Styles

Malas are always made with round beads. These beads are usually 7-8mm in size or 10mm, and their shape allows them glide easily through your fingers. Traditional malas are made with Rudraksha beads, lotus seed beads, yak bone, Bodhi seeds, or wood. Healing malas are made from gemstones, which have different energies, properties, and colors. For example, there are many malas that are made from black onyx, turquoise, rose quartz, or jade. Less common are malas made from round glass beads or glass crystal, and often these malas are used for color therapy.

There are several mala styles. Some malas are made with only 108 beads, a guru, and a tassel. Others have markers at 7 and/or 21 which make the piece useable in shorter mantra meditations. Some malas look like necklaces and have 108 mala beads with only a guru. All 108 mala beads can be worn as necklaces or as wrapped bracelets, and many Western practitioners wear their malas when they are off the mat to remind them of their yoga practice. There are also mala bracelets which can be made from 21 or 27 beads for shorter meditations and these malas are often worn as bracelets off the mat.

Choosing Mala Beads

When choosing a mala, use your intuition first. If a mala appeals to you, it will be the right mala for you at this time. You can also choose a mala based on the intention of your yoga practice. For example, if you feel that you need more grounding and centering on and off the mat, choose a mala made from agate which is a grounding stone. You can also choose a mala based on its color. If you like the color it is more likely that you will find the opportunity to wear your mala, keep it near you throughout the day, or be happy to see it in your shrine. You can choose a mala based on color if you are also working on your chakras. For example, if you are working on opening your throat chakra, a mala made from blue stones such as turquoise would be perfect, because this stone and color are both excellent for opening the throat chakra. When buying a mala made from gemstones for healing or chakra therapy, make sure that the mala maker uses a gemstone reference guide.

Quality Mala Beads

Your mala should last a long time. A mala that is high quality can withstand use on and off the mat. If you are buying a gemstone mala make sure the beads are of an A or B or C grade. You also want to make sure that the string that the mala is strung on is a premium thread or wire. The best wire is one that has passed a 30lb test. This means that the thread or wire can hold that much weight before being compromised. The method of knotting is also important to ensure that you piece lasts a long time. Sellers should stand behind their products, and they should be willing to restring your mala if it breaks. Finally, mala beads can be stored in a fabric bag when not in use. Fabrics that are natural are best, for example cotton, linen, silk, or velvet. Some sellers offer a mala bag with purchase others offer them for sale as a complimentary product.

Jacqueline Medalye is the designer and owner of Salt Spring Malas and Yoga Jewelry. She has been practicing yoga for 10 years and she has been making beaded jewelry since 1993. After traveling throughout India she began making malas. Jacqueline feels that Salt Spring Malas is her path of right livelihood given her passion for yoga, beads and jewelry design.

Website: Salt Spring Malas

Facebook Page: Salt Spring Malas

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