I’ve been practicing meditation over the past couple of years and while I am enjoying it, I feel that I’m still not allowing myself all the benefits from it so I decided to add mala beads to my practice.

What are mala beads?

Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning garland. A mala (or mala necklace) is simply a string of beads that are used in a meditation practice. They can be made of wood, seeds, glass beads, gemstones, and even pearls. They are a tool to help you count mantras, and they act as a tactile guide as you sit in silence.  Malas have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries. To me, they are somewhat like a Rosary in that their function is to count prayers and malas are to set an intention while you silently chant mantras. It’s interesting to note that over two-thirds of the world’s population use some type of counting beads as part of their spiritual practice. In meditation, it is a way to keep the mind open and clear from thoughts. Whenever your mind goes to a thought, you can bring it back to the meditation by focusing on the bead and the mantra.

mala necklace being held by Shelley; hers has a gold tassel

Most malas have 108 beads. There seem to be several different beliefs around this. Some believe that this is to signify 108 stages on the journey of the human soul, while others think that there is the possibility of enlightenment if you take only 108 breaths a day, while in deep meditation. Others believe that it is derived from Indian spirituality. There are 108 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Vedic mathematicians measured the Sun’s diameter to be 108 times larger than the diameter of the Earth. In the yogic tradition, there are 108 sacred texts of the Upanishads, 108 sacred holy sites in India, and 108 marmas (acupressure-like) points on the body.  In tantric yoga, there are 108 energy lines that are described throughout the body and they all meet and connect at the heart chakra. So as you can see, the number 108 comes up a lot!

Some malas have a 109th bead called the Meru or guru or even sumeru bead. It typically sits in the center of the mala and provides a starting and ending point. Some say that it sits right at the heart.

Also on the mala, is a tassel.  The tassel represents the connection to spirit, God or your highest power. Some also believe that the pieces in the tassel are where everything is “brought together”. The different colors of the tassel can also be significant.

Mala beads can be made from seeds, semi-precious stones, wood, like sandalwood and teak and even pearls and bone. Physical contact with the beads may help to transmit some of the healing powers of the bead itself. Some malas that are made from semi-precious stones might be made in a design in order to correspond to the different chakras in our body. certain stones having a meaning for each one. Mala beads from India usually have hand-tied knots between each bead, while those that come from Tibet, Nepal, or China are not knotted between the beads. Some might also have metal, spacer beads which are not used for counting.

The counting beads are usually made between 6 mm and 10mm with the most common being 8mm. You might want to keep that in mind when purchasing because the larger beads may be easier to use when counting.

You may see people wearing the malas as necklaces or wrapped around their wrists. There are also smaller malas of 27 or 54 beads (for bracelets or pocket-sized malas) or any multiplier of 9 which is a sacred number in Yoga.

So with mala necklaces, your choices for personalization are almost limitless and can align with your personality or intentions!  Erin, a friend I recently met sells malas as part of her jewelry business. They are beautiful and very inexpensive compared to those I’ve seen elsewhere. You can also find her on Instagram.

Mala necklaces and bracelets are also available on Amazon but they usually take quite some time to arrive.

Let me know if you choose to get one. I’d love to see it and learn more about why you chose it.


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