What is a Mala?
Mala is a Sanskrit word that means “necklace” or “garland”. The main body of a mala is usually 108 beads of roughly the same size and material as each other though smaller versions, often factors of 108 such as 54 or 27, exist. The 108 beads represent the 108 stages of the human journey from birth to death. The extra beads at the top of the mala (the “guru” bead) represent your teacher, or the highest truth. The number 108 is significant in many Eastern traditions and is thought to represent the totality of existence. The heart chakra is said to have 108 energy lines converging upon it, and there are said to be 108 Upanishads (sacred texts) in the Hindu religion. In Buddhism, there are said to be 108 defilements of the mind, and in yoga, there are said to be 108 points on the body where nadis (energy channels) intersect.
Malas are often made with sacred materials such as rudraksha seeds or sandalwood. Each type of material has its own meaning, unique energy, and benefits.
What is a Mala Used For?
Malas are typically worn around the neck or wrist, and can be used for meditation, mantra recitation, or simply as a reminder to stay present. When you use your mala, hold the beads in your right hand and begin at the guru bead. Recite your mantra or affirmation as you move your fingers along each bead toward the tassel. Once you reach the tassel, continue reciting your mantra as you reverse direction and head back toward the guru bead. Repeat this process until you feel called to stop.
When using a mala, it’s important to focus on your breath and mantra. The main goal is to clear your mind of all other thoughts and to focus on your intention. If you find your mind wandering, simply refocus your attention to your breath and mantra.
For many people, a mala is a tool for grounding and centering. In a world that is constantly moving and changing, the mala can be a reminder to stay present and connected to our highest selves. Malas can also be given as gifts, and are often used in ceremony or ritual.