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How to use Mala Beads

Wellness Feature

Written by Samantha Lund

The term “mala” is Sanskrit for meditation garland. Mala beads, also known as prayer beads, are beaded necklaces traditionally used for Buddhist meditation and prayer.

The Beads

The 108 beads that make up each strand can be made out of anything from sandalwood to jade, and each type of bead is said to have different properties.

The number 108 is sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism and yogi tradition. Malas come in strands to represent each prayer or mantra that’s repeated a total of 108 times; essentially the beads help the practitioner keep track.

Overhand Knotting

Small knots between each bead are a good indicator of a mala versus a beaded necklace. The knots make malas stronger and gives your fingers space for meditative turning of the beads.

The Guru Bead

At the end of the strand, the guru bead attaches directly to the tassel and is the 109th bead. This bead symbolizes the guru that taught the prayer to the student using the mala and pays homage to the student-guru relationship.

The Tassel

There are several variations of what the tassel at the end of the mala represents. Some argue it’s for aesthetic purposes, but more popular opinions include alignment, the connection of all people as one and consciousness. Whichever reason resonates with you is fine to take into your practice.

Popular Materials

  • Jasper enhances balance and is used by those transitioning in life.
  • Lava is believed to promote strength, which is good for people dealing with struggle or self-judgment.
  • Turquoise is the stone of healing and communication between the spiritual and physical.
  • Clear quartz is the “master healer” and will connect you to your
  • higher self.
  • Rose quartz is the stone of love and is used to align the heart chakra.

Mala-Led Seated Meditation

  1. Set an intention, mantra or prayer.
  2. Hold your beads in your dominant hand.
  3. Begin turning each bead individually using your fingers.
  4. Take a deep inhale and exhale as you turn each bead.
  5. With each bead and each breath, silently repeat your mantra or prayer.
  6. Once you hit the guru bead, take a moment to reflect and pause.
  7. Sit in the stillness of meditation.

You can also use your mala to enhance asana practice (the physical practice of yoga poses) by placing it at the top of your yoga mat as a reminder of your intention as you move through your practice.

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