Those gorgeous mala beads you see your yoga instructor wearing are actually more than a fashion statement. These strings of beads are actually a traditional tool of meditation and prayer used by a variety of cultures across the world. Used for japa meditation, where the focus is on repeating a mantra or word, you may find mala to be a useful addition to your meditation practice.
Mala beads are known by a lot of names. You may see them referred to as japamala, prayer beads, meditation beads, mala necklaces, mala bracelets, or mala jewelry. They’re commonly used by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and some Sikhs for the meditative practice known as japa, which involves focusing on the repetition of a mantra.
The mala itself usually has 108 beads and is used during meditation as a way to count of repetitions or breaths. The beads can be made from a variety of woods or gemstones. The different stones and colors can have meanings and intentions associated with them.
You’ve also probably noticed that most malas have a tassel or guru bead (aka sumeru, bindu, or stupa). This is to mark the beginning and the end of your meditation. In addition to being a counting tool, malas are helpful to keep your mind focused and help guide your attention if your mind drifts.
- Take your normal sitting or kneeling position for meditation.
- Decide on the mantra you will be meditating on and how many repetitions you want to achieve.
- Using your right hand, drape the beads over either your middle finger or the ring finger.
- Repeat the mantra in your mind, drawing the mala toward you with your thumb. One bead equals one repetition.
- When you reach the guru bead, that counts as 100 repetitions. You should not cross the guru bead, so to continue your meditation you will rotate the mala. To do this with one hand, grasp the final bead with your thumb and pointer finger (if draping over the middle finger) or middle finger (if draping over the ring finger). Slide the draped finger out and insert it from the other side.
- Continue your japa meditation until you reach your repetition goal.
Malas can be worn as a necklace or a bracelet and have become a trendy fashion accessory.