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Mala Beads 101

Rouxmia Bougas Yoga

If you practice yoga or meditation regularly, you may want to consider using mala beads as a meditation aid. We love to wear yoga inspired things, from t-shirts with symbols, getting tattoos and of course wearing jewellery that express our devotion to the practice.
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 Mala beads are a strand of 108 beads used for keeping count during mantra meditations. They are the newest trend in wearable yoga accesories, with designers making mala necklaces that combine gemstones imbued with potent energies and sacred meaning to infuse your practice.
Malas can also be made of 27 beads or 21 beads for use in shorter meditations.
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. Mala beads are also referred to as Buddhist beads or sacred prayer beads. Mala beads have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries and the traditional Rudraksha mala dates back to the 10th century.
There are many theories behind the significance of the number 108, which has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism. It offers people a wearable reflection of something in their own journey, so in that way the mall really becomes whatever the wearer intends for it.

How to Use Mala Beads for Meditation:

  • First, you should clarify the intention of your practice and choose your mantra or affirmation.
  • Choose a spot and sit comfortably with your spine straight, legs crossed and your eyes closed.
  • Take a few deep breaths to center and align yourself with your intention.
  • If you have one, use a mantra for this practice, chanting aloud or silently.
  • Hold your mala in your right hand, draped between your middle and index fingers. Place your thumb on the guru bead and begin reciting your mantra. Use your thumb to count each smaller bead, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra. At the end of each 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 or until you once again reach the guru bead.
  • If you want to continue the meditation, instead of passing over the guru bead, simply reverse direction and begin again.

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

Someone once told me that you don’t choose your mala beads, it chooses you. The same with crystal bracelets.
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.


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