Malas have recently become more and more popular on the fashion scene, but their historic use and meaning is much more than just a beautiful piece of jewelry. Malas are tools for meditation and mental focus. Meditation, one of the healthiest practices you can have, is not always as simple as it seems. Finding the discipline to sit still, even for five minutes, can at times feel impossibly challenging. Curing fidgetiness and a busy mind are the exact reasons we love Mala beads. They provide as Ram Dass puts it, a “kinesthetic cue device” that allows you to continuously re-awaken and stay on course throughout the practice of meditation.
Mala beads, or Hindu Prayer Beads, are similar to Rosaries or other types of prayer beads and often used in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Traditionally a Mala is strung with 108 beads, a sacred number in many cultures, or 27 beads (1/4 of 108). Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating mantras or deity names, a practice referred to as Japa in Sanskrit.
When simply meditating or chanting it can be easy for the mind to wander off. The act of passing the beads through your fingers while focusing on each breath or each mantra provides the opportunity to reawaken each time a new bead crosses the finger tips. It is a tactile reminder that you are here, participating in this moment, breathing and honoring each second of life as it passes through you.
There are a few ways to hold and move the Mala through your fingers as you meditate. In traditional Hindu use, you place the Mala in your right hand, with the first bead that you will count draped over your middle or ring finger. You then use your thumb to move the Mala as you count. The 108 “counting beads” meet in the center where there is a “guru bead” that hangs perpendicular and does not get counted or skipped but rather used as a point of reflection.
How to use a mala for meditation:
1) Find a comfortable seat. Take your mala in your right hand and take a few deep breaths. Notice the airflow as it enters in and out through your nostrils. Sweetly set an intention for this meditation or choose a mantra that you feel comfortable repeating. Repeat the mantra once or say your intention quietly to yourself out loud before beginning the count. Make sure that you know how many times you intend on repeating the mantra before so that you do not get lost in the counting process.
2) Begin by sliding the beads between your thumb and middle finger, repeating the mantra or focusing your intention with each bead and breath. When you reach the guru bead, pause and reflect, then reverse the direction of the beads as you begin to count again.
3) When you finish, take a moment of silence before getting up to continue your day. Feel gratitude for allowing yourself to practice and to do something loving and healthy for your body. Carry the peaceful feeling of the meditation with you for the rest of the day.
Interested in getting mala beads? Check out any of our three Namaste studio boutiques! We have hand-made malas from in various styles, lengths, and prices.