If you have been to a few yoga classes you have probably seen or at least heard of mala beads. Maybe you have seen them at a metaphysical store or at a booth at the yoga conference. What are those beautiful bead necklaces and what are their significance in the practice of yoga?
In Sanskrit, the term mala means ‘garland.’ They are usually made up of 108 beads and one larger central bead called a guru bead. These are the type of prayer beads used by Buddhists and Hindus. When they are used, a mantra or intention word is repeated with each bead, starting at the guru bead and ending again at this central bead. If the user wishes to do more, the guru bead is never crossed over, rather the beads are flipped and counted away from the guru bead again. Mala beads date back to Hindu religious practices around the 8th century B.C.E.
In Hinduism there are two main branches called Shaivism and Vishnuism. The former uses 32 to 108 rudraksha beads made of seeds from a unique Javan tree. The seeds are rough and separated into 5 sections to represent the 5 faces and personalities of Siva and also represent the rigid lifestyle required by worshippers. Vishnu mala are carved of tulsi wood and have 108 beads.
Buddhist mala have 108 beads which represent the impurities that must be overcome to reach Nirvana. The beads were once only made of the sacred Bodhi tree but now are crafted from many other materials as well. Healing Mala may be made of gemstones or crystals which have different energies, colours and properties that may aid in different healing practices.
The crystal mala used in healing may use stones specific to correct an imbalance. For example, I went for an colour aura scan and had a slight imbalance in my solar plexus or third chakra. A crystal used for healing this imbalance is citrine. I got a citrine mala bracelet to help me create balance here. It is very interesting to learn about crystals and how their properties may be used to help work with the subtle aspects of our energetic being. It is something that I am new to and wish to learn more about.
A place to find some gorgeous mala beads is https://purplelotus.ca/
Anyone may use mala beads and the meaning they will bring to each will be individual in their prayer and meditation practice. According to Hinduism, they are used by the right hand and the thumb is used to move from one bead to the next. The index finger should not touch the beads through the transfer and the beads are draped over the middle finger.
To begin a meditation practice using a mantra or an affirmation is a great way to stay focused and really with your practice. Using a mala to help you count your repetitions will allow you to completely focus on your intention. It is easy for the mind to wander sometimes, which is okay, but the mala is another helpful way to increase concentration.
Here is a simple practice for you to use a mala:
First decide on your mantra, affirmation or intention word. This will be what you repeat with each bead and the focus of your meditation.
Sit as comfortably and as tall as you can. Take a few deep breaths by inhaling through the nose while letting your chest and belly open. Exhale through your nose equally and fully. Try closing your eyes and taking 5 deep breaths this way.
Hold your mala in your right hand with the mala draped over your middle finger and in your palm. Bring your thumb to the bead just past the guru bead. Begin your mantra and use your thumb to move to the next bead with each repetition. Keep your eyes closed to enhance your focus. When you come around the mala and back to the guru bead you may finish or flip the mala to go back around again. When you have completed your meditation, sit and take a few more deep breaths before opening your eyes. Hopefully you will have a positive experience that will stay with you for the rest of your day:)